Even before I read anything about the artist or her inspiration, I felt filmmaker Peter Greenaway's master work "Prospero's Books" in the work of Margo Selski. And sure enough, Selski says she is indeed inspired by the Greenaway film. Of course her major inspiration is Renaissance painting: not only the look but the technique as well. In order to mimic the cracked look of such ancient canvases, Selski smears the surface with beeswax, freezes them in the walk-in freezer of a local Chinese restaurant, and then paints inside the cracks that form. She may use Renaissance painting as a paradigm but her subject matter--and titles--are beautifully surreal and psychologically penetrating.
She has created an absolutely fantastical, evocative series of paintings entitled "The Ladies' Underwater Gardening Society" which strikes me as springing directly from the type of dream logic we (some of us) encounter nightly. To get the full effect, you must read the subtitle of each piece and let it mesh with the image...
Top to bottom: Miss Hanover's Treachery; Nightdrilling; Shark Management Class, Society Lesson No.3; Society Rule No. 5; The Birthmark; The Horrible Training Accident; The Rehearsal; Class of '10, Winter Semester
In an attempt to learn about Selski and her work, I came across a wonderful article in which she speaks about her twelve year old son Theo who models for many of her paintings. He has been cross-dressing since the age of seven. Selski says, "Theo is starting to receive a lot of hostility from his peers in our little town in rural Washington about his cross-dressing. He has little control in his world. These paintings are a reminder to him that, although the world around you tells you that you don’t belong, the world around you can change. These paintings give him control." She paints him in sumptuous Renaissance gowns, crowns, and ruffled collars.
I love her.
And Theo is lucky to have her for a mom.
I hope Theo grows up to be a wildly successful fashion designer, painter, performance artist... or whatever he wants to be... while wearing whatever he damn well pleases.
May the universe bless them both.
Top to bottom: Hitherto and Henceforth; detail from Hitherto and Henceforth with Theo; Theater Dress III; Machine in the Garden-Our Island Shall Know Abundance Without End
I can't find an official website, but you can find Margo Selski at the Glass Garage Gallery here.