context…Gail Stoicheff…002

Problem Child

Midnight (Bull)...2017...54x38in...Oil and Dye on Canvas...GS-002
Midnight (Bull), 2017 

In a studio self-described as organized chaos, Gail Stoicheff crossbreeds contradictions into a rare and harmonious offspring—oxymoron. The distinction, of course, is that the latter embodies apparent contradiction, which is to say none at all. It breaks down the ivory tower of fact and shows us our own subjective lens (i.e. the preeminent role of our imaginations) in making sense of the world around us.

Broken minotaur
Minotaur bust, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The New York based artist works her canvases with oil, dye and pigment, sometimes affixing cast plaster objects onto the edges or surfaces as well. In Midnight (Bull), for example, a Hydrocal bull horn rests atop a deep blue canvas, painted to appear crinkled. In the bottom right corner of the work is what seems like a different painting entirely: a small black square with a crescent moon in the center. Like all of Stoicheff’s work, the piece is abstract and figurative, conceptual and literal, flat and sculptural—all at the same time.

Or, it’s none of these things.

Stoicheff’s Problem Child series is rooted in the story of the Minotaur Asterion from ancient Greek mythology. With the body of a man and the head of a bull, Asterion was promptly shut up within a labyrinth in Crete to live in isolation. He was loved by his mother as a son and feared by the populace as a monster; Never is he seen as a bull or as a man, but rather as some being wholly unique.

Hybridity is a matter of perspective. Like the Minotaur, Stoicheff’s work is not defined by any one of its disparate elements, but rather by the relationship between them all. Each piece is one dynamic entity—wholly unique from any of its parts.

At first, the active relationships in Stoicheff’s work might seem incongruous; we as viewers are predisposed to categorization, and because the work cannot be clearly delineated, we behave like the populace in Asterion’s story, deeming it absurd.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 11.21.28 PM
ancient mosaic: Theseus killing the Minotaur

But unlike humanity, Art appeals to open-mindedness—to a prolonged consideration. In Noon (Bull), for instance, we begin to realize that the smeared hand gestures, tie-dye stains, and small portrait of a Kingfisher (a bird native to Crete) only seem contradictory, and that what their relationship really unveils is a visual story-teller’s transparent creative process.

As has become so evident in the past year, Stoicheff’s work reminds us why Truth does not lie in facts. That is because facts are static and subject to perspective. Truth resides only and forever in the imagination. Yet this is not to say that the “facts” of Stoicheff’s paintings (her medium and her imagery) are irrelevant. To the contrary, they are critically important. In the dynamic relationship they enliven, Stoicheff’s marks speak clearly about a unique and unquantifiable mystery of human behavior—the artistic endeavor.

Dawn (Man)...2017...54x38in...Oil and Dye on Canvas...GS-001
Dawn (Man), 2017