Three large paintings hang on the walls — two on the left, one on the right. Their size exudes a commanding force, like looking into the belly of some immense canyon, up at a monstrous, ancient tree, or across the rolling dunes of a great desert. Each painting depicts items of humble beginnings with a newfound greater purpose. The image of rooftops, stacked pallets and the frame of a metal sign exist on these canvases as pantheons of a modern landscape.
In her show, “New Work by Lana Waldrep,” at Page Bond Gallery, the recent master of fine arts graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University brings together a body of work that questions the viewer's perspectives. Along with these three large works are three smaller canvases depicting a box, a pit and a metal grate that shapes the base of city trees. With a quiet intelligence, Waldrep abstracts images away from their initial perspective and plays with scale.
“I kind of think that there was something almost monumental in the way that I was beginning to choose my subject matter and just focusing on one thing,” Waldrep says of her earlier development. “And then I started thinking of them more like anonymous monuments. Like the idea that a monument was an object that's created for some kind of influence.”
She started her transition into large-scale, monumental work after moving from Austin, Texas, to Richmond. She found herself on the East Coast surrounded by the monuments of Virginia's capital as well as discoveries made during trips to Washington. The notion of a monument became part of her visual language. Her choice of subject matter and point of view on the 96-by-96 inch canvases distorts the viewer's full scene. Their reasons for existing as important images are created by the repeated question in the viewer's head: “Why?”
“It is kind of a weird way of looking at it,” Waldrep says. “There is a part of me that is not really thinking about these monuments in any way politically as much as just a piece of my individual culture. They are like visual static that kind of go on and you question it and the things you kind of pass every day and may be you don't see them, and then why don't you see it?” She asks, “Where do these hierarchies in your mind come from? “
Waldrep's subject matter is also enhanced by her idiosyncratic color palette. She exaggerates color, especially in highlighted regions. Waldrep says placement of this new palette is increasingly becoming more inventive. The colors help to create the evolution of the subject matter's status.
These portrayed monuments are void of any identity except for recognition of their formidable selves. Instead of carrying over an identity from a greater cause, they are more monuments to the commonality of everything.
“I like being able to find something and see it in two different ways at the same exact time,” she says. “So I could see it as completely a monument or equally completely boring. And when you take something that is completely boring it has farther to fall.” Waldrep says of these polarized creations, “It catches your eye as being this monumental thing but then you settle into it and realize what it is. … You're falling further.” S
“New Work by Lana Waldrep” will be on display at Page Bond Gallery, 1625 W. Main St., until Aug. 30. For more information call 359-3633 or go to pagebondgallery.com.