Lorraine Simms: The Looking Room

Works in the exhibition

Lorraine Simms is a painter who puts her skill on the line and through its paces. The result is achieved virtuosity and expression; and never a display of excess, whether in imagery or ability. She is not a shock tactician, not a show-off, not cynical. A painter’s painter with a full complement of studio lore at her disposal, her work nonetheless qualifies as deeply invested conceptually; one important idea that has emerged in her series-based production implies that painting can be analogized as a deer caught in the headlights: those of the viewer. Her image of such a deer, taken from online sources, characterizes the many-sided enigma of how visual art addresses our seeing and thinking, in an image that is embedded into an object.

Her fascination with masking and theatricality, in mirroring, pretense and make-believe are as central to her practice as tubes of color: the rich intellectual soil involved has provided her with a vast terrain over which to range with brush and paint. The Looking Room is an apt metaphor for the totality of her art, and not a tagline about her subjects. She is able to trouble us in a way that edifies without moralizing, as in her painting of her studio assistant, “Lacey in a Cat Suit”: what we confront before this painting is definite in some ways; with respect to its visceral impact, but very difficult to describe exactly as to its meaning. We recognize the tropes of doubling and disguise, a discussion of adolescence and an interest in sexuality and gender as subjects; but there is also an atmospheric wistfulness here that invokes a whole range of emotion to go with the currency of the ideas; The Looking Room is a game of show and tell brought to the highest level.

For more information on the artist