Saturday, June 26, 2010

Visual Narrative ~ Nicole McCormick Santiago

On display through July 22nd at Gallery 180 of The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago are two pieces by Nicole McCormick Santiago, an amazing figurative artist who currently lives and works in Williamsburg Virginia. The intimate pieces, measuring roughly 30 x 24 inches, present human situations with implied narratives. The artist's intention is to "...capture the subject’s internal and layered narrative where residues of the past and suggestions of the future swirl around the present, creating a kind of “thick time.” McCorrmick Santiago goes on... "To accomplish this, I use the scattered signs of daily existence to communicate accidental yet honest storylines that provide indirect insight into the cadence of a daily life."

After the Visual Narrative exhibition was selected, I contacted each of the artist for a short statement about the selected works. Following is the statement defining "Birthday Scene" and "Ghost" by Nicole McCormick Santiago.
The artwork titled Birthday Scene is a perfect example of this sort of layered narrative and “thick time.” Situated amid a birthday celebration, the protagonist wears a juvenile pink dress symbolizing the naivety of youth. She is positioned between a birthday cake and a doll that she inattentively places or removes into or out of a gift bag. Her apprehensive expression as she gazes at the cake, is the apprehension of marriage. Indeed it is no accident this cake mimics the shape of a wedding cake. The ambiguity surrounding her actions with the doll alludes to contradicting emotions surrounding motherhood. The confusion as to whose birthday we are to celebrate reiterates the confusing rites of passage (i.e. motherhood & marriage) that the young woman faces.

When compared to Birthday Scene, Ghost, which portrays a child in a makeshift ghost costume, is a more direct narrative and contains less allegory to sift through. In order to gain a fuller narrative, this image requires one to look beyond the moment shown, to consider the time before and the moment after. Is the child just beginning her Halloween adventure or is she arriving home to rummage trough her spoils? Using the scattered signs of domestic life, one can infer the household space this child inhabits and therefore gain a better understanding of the figures depicted. The mother, although large and dominant, does not maintain a dominating role in the painting. This role is given to the child’s possessions, hence shifting the painting’s focus to align with the child’s focus. The mother is an ever-present supporting column that quietly stabilizes the moment, while the child freely explores her brightly colored world.
With twenty-one narrative works of art by thirteen artists, this exhibition is filled with thought-provoking pieces which address the human condition. The show continues through July 22nd. All works are available for purchase. Gallery 180 of The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago is located at 180 N. Wabash—in Chicago's Loop. Additional work by McCormick Santiago can be found at:

Images: Nicole McCormick Santiago, "Birthday Scene", 2009, oil on linen, 30 x 23 3/4" $2,000
Nicole McCormick Santiago, "Ghost", 2010, oil on linen, 30 x 23 3/4" $2,000

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