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Dark Delights: Megan Kimber at Julia Martin Gallery

“Black Clouds/Stone Bed” by Megan Kimber

A visit to the online galleries at Megan Kimber’s website finds illustrative work that would be right at home in a young adult fantasy and commissioned portraits which feature the artist’s own quirky tweaks. But a visit to Julia Martin Gallery during the month of March reveals a collection of narrative paintings featuring macabre palettes and melancholy subjects. The best works here feature 3D elements that – literally – make these paintings stand out.

“Tracing the Edge” presents what looks like a half-naked girl staring intently into the middle distance. Her numerous arms recall Kali, the Hindu avatar of death and destruction, and their fidgety poses only add to the anxiety in the girl’s expression. Her hair is wrapped in cloth and her waist is wrapped in a modest skirt. Both of these elements are made of actual cloth that the artist has applied to the painting. The head-wrap is transformed into gory crown with the addition of what look like small bones from a real chicken.

“How to Survive a Drowning” presents a similar girl swooning on a bed, a tangle of actual brown thread swims from her mouth and gurgles across the canvas. In addition to the thread, the bed and the girl’s skirt are represented with actual material applied to the surface of the canvas. The textures here are sensuous and lovely, offering an odd counterpoint to what might be the girl’s last breath. The applied fabrics also make the work feel more like a one-of-a-kind piece, which resonates nicely with the titular implications that Kimber is picturing a specific drowning here, not “any” drowning or “all.”

“Black Clouds/Stone Bed” is a portrait of another girl wearing a dress made of real cloth – her rib cage made of chicken bones is applied directly to the canvas. The girl’s face is rendered in a kind of blur – like a photographer’s subject swinging her head from right to left at the worst possible moment. It’s my favorite piece in the show.

Nowadays, lots of artists incorporate all of the same elements Kimber utilizes: a highly stylized illustrative sensibility imbued with dark, fantastic elements in a faerie tale-like narrative. When Kimber is just doing this, she’s very good at it. But with a painting like “Black Clouds’” she captures the same sexy strangeness one finds in French symbolist painting and she proves that she’s capable of more than simply following trends.

This review originally appeared in the Nashville Scene. Visit that post to see more images.

Julia Martin Gallery is located at 444 Humphreys St. Open Friday’s and Saturdays 12 – 6 P.M. And Sunday 1 – 4.

Seed Space’s regular hours are 10 A.M. – 2 P.M. Mondays and Wednesdays. Track One is located at 410 Chestnut St. 

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About Joe Nolan

Joe Nolan is the visual arts editor. He is a poet, musician, artist and critic who distills the city's gallery scene from Nashville's east side. Find out more about his projects at joenolan.com. (Photo of Joe Nolan by John Rogers)