Lynn Veitzer is a talented young artist who has benefited from rigorous academic art training. An exhibition of her mysterious and beautiful still-life oil paintings, recently on view at the Spanierman gallery, reconfirms that New York City—once regarded as the birthplace of American abstraction—has now become home to a burgeoning renaissance in realism and classicism. Veitzer transforms the most innocuous objects—egg shells, onions, strips of bark, wedding rings, tintypes, old boxes, copper bells and cups—into small interior worlds of subtle meaning and beauty. Like the works of Joseph Cornell and William Harnett, Veitzer’s paintings are so perfectly composed they add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. This is due largely to Veitzer’s extraordinary sensitivity to subtle colors and to the formal nuances of the objects she selects. Triptych (2002) presents three views of metal locks and latches embedded into three weather-beaten wooden doors. The paint on the doors has faded and partially peeled off, revealing earlier coats of paint and raw striated wood. The edges of the doors consist of several pieces of joined wood which hold the ancient rusted locks and latches in place. One latch is partially bent from repeated handling. Beyond the doors are glimpses of impenetrable darkness. The obvious delight Veitzer feels in rendering the grains, textures and surfaces enhances the spiritual and symbolic connotations of these commonplace objects.
In Pandora (2003), one of the more complex of the thirty paintings on view, a vintage photographic card portrays a smiling Gibson-Girl look-alike whose long hair rises bizarrely in a swirling cyclone. The card is depicted upright in a small brown metal box with tiny brass bolts and a burnished copper inside lid. A small key in the open lock dangles from the latch of Pandora’s box. Faded slips of paper from Chinese fortune cookies protrude from beneath the lid of a second, green felt box, references to fate and the unknown. The composition is tightly knit into a formal arrangement of forest greens, subtle mauves, faded ochres and browns.
Fabric patterns and wooden textures feature prominently in many of Veitzer’s works. With a minaturist’s skill, she transcribes the intricate details of tapestries, the rich surfaces of brocaded materials, and a variety of wooden surfaces. Shell and Bark (2003) explores the subtle contrasts between a weathered piece of bark and the broken fragments of an egg shell. Eve (2003) is an allegorical work, depicting a classicized bronze relief of Eve and the Tree of Knowledge set inside the base of an inverted bronze pot. Around the pot are nine shiny red apples, set atop a minutely rendered, golden-toned brocade fabric runner which gives the work an alter-like quality. Veitzer uses limited depth of field. Tables, boxes, even the glass tank in Watermark (2001) are shown frontal, at eye level, an approach used by trompe l’oeil artists. Still-life artists such as William Bailey and the late Giorgio Morandi use such spatial perspective to emphasize the formal aesthetic relationships of one object to another. In Sounding bells (2003), the depth of field is mere inches, which makes the rich red flatness of the wall appear almost on the same plane as the swirled brocaded pattern of the paisley beneath the reddish brass and copper ceremonial bells. She leaves much to the imagination of the viewer. Do the jade and turquoise rings and wedding band arranged beneath the smoking ash resting in the palm of a brass hand, in Pyre (2003), refer to loss, the end of a relationship, or a deceased loved on? False Faces (2004) is the only figurative work in the exhibition, a self-portrait of the artist posed against a wall from which hang several fierce masks and carved heads from different past civilizations. Veitzer stares expressionless at the viewer, cradling an unfinished, bland mask in her hands. Her paintings pose a question: to what degree are we products of our time and to what degree are we individuals who transcend it?
Born in 1968 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Veitzer began her formal art training at the New York Academy of Art, then joined the Water Street Atelier of Jacob Collins, and later studied with the painter Michael Aviano. She is a recipient of the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Medal of Honor, and was invited to exhibit in Re-Presenting Representation VI (2003) at the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, New York. In an artist’s statement printed in the gallery brochure, Veitzer explains her goals: “I wish to create works that draw on traditional painting techniques yet are relevant to this time. We live in a world transformed by modern intellectual, historical, technological, and cultural developments. The best contemporary art should reflect these changes, yet maintain an element of timelessness.” Lynn Veitzer lives and works in New York City. She is represented by Spanierman Gallery, LLC, 45 East 58th St., New York, New York. Telephone (212) 832-0208. On the web at www.spanierman.com