In all of her paintings, Metier reveals her skill as a colorist, using lots of bright red, purple and blue against pale tones of cream, yellow and gray. And it's this attribute more than any other that links her work to the pieces featured in Doris Laughton: Sex, Lies and Monotypes, on display a few steps away at Open Press.
Laughton began work on these monotypes and collages two years ago, shortly after she arrived in Colorado from New York via Italy. It was through sheer serendipity that Laughton and her husband, Martin Smith, chose the Rocky Mountains as their new home. The couple wanted to live in the Western wilderness but also wanted to be close to a big city. They had already looked in the Pacific Northwest and in Arizona when, while visiting friends in Denver, they fell in love with a house in the mountains near Bailey. They've lived there since 1994.
Born and raised in New York City, Laughton began her career as a painter more than twenty years ago. At that time, she attended New Jersey's Drew University, which had strong connections to the abstract expressionists of the New York School. At Drew, Laughton gained a first-hand awareness of artists who later influenced her development, most notably abstract-expressionist pioneers Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. She says Elaine de Kooning, who created a hybrid of abstract expressionism in which portraits or figure studies were rendered sketchily, also had a profound effect on her early work. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Laughton attended various other art schools, including the Parsons School of Design and the New York Academy of Art, both in Manhattan.
In 1990 Martin Smith retired from his job as a high-powered executive with a New York advertising agency, and the couple left to live for four years in Italy. "We chose Italy because I love both the ancient and the modern culture there and because, unlike in France or Spain, it's possible to become a part of the community, because the Italians are very welcoming," Laughton says. The couple set up shop in an old farmhouse outside Rome in the town of Maremma. The house was previously owned by Giuseppe Cesetti, an early-twentieth-century artist famous in Italy and France, and was therefore equipped with a proper studio.
Laughton says her experiences in Italy were enriching. So in 1994, when the couple was about to return to the United States, she became frantic to capture anything Italian. The result of this last-minute burst of energy were two large paintings on cardboard that Laughton cut into strips and then wove into a box. The images on the box in turn provided the source for the monotypes and collages created since her return to this country, all of which were created in collaboration with Mark Lunning, the master printer at Open Press.
And Laughton and Lunning have obviously been busy. In addition to the main gallery, Lunning needed to annex the reception area and the hallway just to accommodate the 28 monotypes and collages on display. The volume of work is even more astounding when one considers the elaborate and involved process Laughton used to arrive at her finished pieces. She began by photographing details of the woven box from Italy. The resulting photos were converted to enlarged photocopies. The photocopied images were transferred to paper by running them through a monotype press. Laughton then ran them through the press again, sometimes repeatedly, embellishing the transfers with inks. In several cases, bits of paper were attached to the print in the chine colle method.
The resulting monotypes are a riot of abstract-expressionist flourishes, gestural geometric shapes and cartoonlike depictions of figures, animals and birds that somehow come together to make coherent statements. A fine example is this year's "Rosie and Matador," which sets stains and scribbles against a pair of goofy-looking horses.
Even better than Laughton's monotypes are her large collages, which are more complicated in their construction. For these works, Laughton took finished monotypes, cut them up and wove them together in the same way that she had made the Italian box. Especially memorable are "The Night's Scream," "Fertile Flirtations" and "Sex, Lies and Monotypes." In the title piece, Laughton uses circles and boxes, along with figures in silhouette, to tell a story about the troubles she encountered when she built her Colorado studio.
Metier and Laughton remind us that there can be many different routes to the same destination. They've each combined recognizable imagery with abstract elements, but they've crafted two very discrete styles along the way.
Amy Metier: New Works on Canvas and Paper, through September 28 at Inkfish Gallery, 116 South Broadway, 715-9528.
Doris Laughton: Sex, Lies and Monotypes, through October 2 at Open Press Fine Art Printmaking, 40 West Bayaud Avenue, 778-1116.