Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Understanding Sammy Hauschild's Digital Paintings of Islands, Rabbits, Greyhounds and Turtles. @SammyHaus

Have you ever explored the limestone islands of the Straits of Mackinac and the Georgian Bay? Hauschild's images are imbued with the region's spirit. Islands come in all sizes here, and some are large enough for a greyhound or a woman to sit upon comfortably. A few islands are large enough for a cabin, and a few brave souls have built them upon these rocky knobs. At the edge of islands, I've noticed washed out roots in the waters of Lake Michigan, roots washed clean of soil after incessant powerful waves. I've seen thickets of trees growing close together, all nearly same height and age. The ones to the edge are shorter. A squirrel or chipmunk forgot location of a cache of nuts, and the nuts took root. There's a short plant with flowers that suggest Queen Anne's Lace, and it hovers above recognition. Hausfield has left this plant colorless in stem, leaf and floral umbel.
The illustrator plays a color game, which to me suggests an idiosyncratic code. Our animals, greyhounds, a turtle, a bear and a passel of rabbits, have a red color on hands and tails. On the bear and turtle, the claws look excluded. This causes me to think of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, In Memoriam A. H. H. "Who trusted God was love indeed / And love Creation's final law / Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw / With ravine, shriek'd against his creed". Our animals are red not in tooth or claw, only red in paw. When I asked the illustrator, she wasn't aware of the poem. Notice that the greyhounds have red paws, as if the hounds had trotted through red paint, and again the claws have no color at all. One might conclude the red is not blood from hunting.
The colors of the Ottawa and Chippewa painters are bright and modern and one might not paint a bedroom or a den with these hues. If you've ever toured around casinos in Manistee, Traverse City or the Leelanau Peninsula, these stunning and powerful paintings have come to your attention. I would like to know why Hauschild's palette reminds me of the color choices of the Native American works. I am wondering if the relationship comes with geography. The land of the Ottawa and Chippewa is close to the painter's world. I am encouraged in this thought since the turtle and bear appear, as these are two powerful symbols for these tribes. It's likely that the greyhound is a personal symbol, and maybe the painter rescues them as an avocation?
Speaking about the color palette: doesn't the color scheme remind one of colorized photographs from Mackinaw Island, souvenirs of travelers in the days before Kodachrome?

What's it like to have perfect color perception? Hauschild has that perfection, and that's why she can push her colors to such a remarkable palette, just this edge of garish. And since the colors are less than garish, the choices excite and comfort at the same time. Can you imagine painting rooms in a post-modern house her hues of beige, aqua, grey? She has a woman in a colorful headband and robe of a color I cannot name. I want to say burnt umber but that's only close. One wants to see Hauschild patent these colors and sell them to Ford to paint on cars for newly hired college graduates.
When I see the boy in his stitched jumpsuit and aviators's hat, one is reminded of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince", in which a young boy travels from small planet to small planet meeting unusual adult characters. Here the little islands match the Little Prince's planets. One has to wonder why the boy in Hauschild's image cares for a greyhound, the greyhound's left paw caught in what could be fishing line. The prince in Saint-Exupéry's story cares for a rose, completing the reflection. I'm not sure what to make of a rabbit that jumps out of a bucket as the woman draws water, but its willingless to leap suggests the rabbit has a home in the water. That's when the image becomes hyper-real for me. Just how far the viewer wants to go down the rabbit-hole is an open question.
This collection is a good opportunity for a collector in that the imagery and story are still in the nascent phase. 

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