Benjamin Long’s plant paintings have their roots in the world of poetry and metaphor. Artists, like poets, have long used nature as a springboard for discussing human issues. For example, the poet Robert Frost evoked imagery of the natural world for his ruminations on life and death. Likewise, Long’s paintings are based on a personal visual language that speaks to the viewer on a universal, emotional level. His painted plant vessels, blooming figs, and large scale blooms are foils to bring up many issues: growth and decay; order and chaos; risk and safety, family and individuality; good and evil. Whether they are dark musings or lyrical rambles, the paintings, like poems hit the issues with sideways glances, alluding to connections and offering up “what ifs” like the opening salvo of a conversation.
These paintings have a baroque sensibility — ornamented and effusive in effect. Paint is scumbled, glazed, and dripped, even stenciled and stamped in sumptuous build-ups. Colors are lush and shapes are round and full. Small windows, that showcase secondary characters and text add a scrapbook-like touch that also gives a nod to today’s multi-window, Internet environment.
Like divas with operatic overtones, the plants stand alone and deliver a heartfelt song. Those with an interest in contemporary painting won’t want to miss taking a “Whiff” from this refreshing show.
To view images, click titles.