For the past several years, Daisy Patton has been creating neo-pop-style paintings that are based on found photos — she calls them “abandoned." Patton searches the Internet — in particular, Ebay — for family photos and snapshots that are for sale, and she buys those that intrigue her. The photos have been entirely divorced from their history and context, and she, and often the seller, know nothing about the people depicted in them or anything else about them. So the people in the photos represent lost memories, giving Patton permission to give them new identities, so to speak. After receiving the photos, Patton scans them, has them printed out in inkjet as enlargements, and mounts them on panels. She then goes in and covers over parts of the photos with oil paints.
By volume, Patton’s eye-catching solo mostly comprises easel-sized altered head shots, but it is her mural-sized paintings, typically capturing groups of people self-consciously posing, that set the tone for the show. As you enter, you can’t help but be drawn to one of those, “Untitled (In a Meadow),” which pretty much covers the north wall. Running across four vertically oriented panels that have been lined up horizontally is the image of a small group of men and women in a meadow. The people are placed in the top half of the composition, and below and engulfing them are stylized flowers and vines that Patton has painted over the photographic depiction of the real flowers and vines that fill the actual meadow in the original photo.
Though I am fairly confident that Patton has never seen the work of the late John Haeseler done in the 1980s and ’90s, since it has only rarely been shown since, I have long been struck by how conceptually similar her photo appropriations are to his.
Margaret Lawless also messes with photos and uses them as the basis for her pieces, but she does something completely different. Instead of looking for anonymous amateur photos like Patton does to serve as source materials, Lawless aims higher, using the famous photos of New York taken by Berenice Abbott in the 1930s when she was working for the Federal Art Project of the WPA. Lawless translates the Abbott imagery into layered paintings that incorporate collage.
The Patton and Lawless shows run through March 4 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive. Call 303-635-6255 or go to michaelwarrencontemporary.com for hours and additional information.