In Jules Verne’s 1882 novel Le Rayon Vert (The Green Ray), the book’s heroes are on an adventure in search of an elusive solar phenomenon: An apparent blast of green light that can sometimes be seen in the last second before sunset. Over a century later, film director Éric Rohmer released a movie by the same name. Rohmer’s scenes followed the misadventures of an independent girl grown cynical of modern love. In the former, the adventurers miss the emerald display, captured by the love they find in one another’s eyes. In the latter, the girl meets a special companion and they discover the ray together just as they are discovering their ideal connection.
According to Verne, the ray can create a kind of sympathetic telepathy in observers, allowing them to see each other’s thoughts. In painter Mary Addison Hackett’s exhibition Le Rayon Vert, in the Leu Art Gallery at Belmont University, the artist simultaneously reveals and conceals her thoughts, observations and intentions in a diaristic chronicling of her everyday surroundings. These paintings range from sweet to surreal, from melancholy to manic.
Whether Hackett has seen the mysterious ray or not, she seems most interested in Rohmer’s take on the green glow. In addition to a number of impressive, larger portraits, outdoor scenes and still lifes, the highlight of the show is a massive grid of the artist’s tiny renderings of the ephemera that crowd her cluttered kitchen. Really a show-within-the-show, the fifty works in Kitchen Paintings (#Drifters) read like a French New Wave panning shot – full of jump cuts assigning meaning through the random-seeming juxtaposition of unrelated images.
The succession of “chemex,” “skillet,” “thermos” and “wise monkeys” ends with the gooey grin of some vaguely simian-seeming knickknack. The bauble takes on an air of talismanic power as if it’s been made magical through Hackett’s painterly attentions.
The show’s title alludes to the color green and the mysterious power of all things rare and beautiful. But Hackett’s most interested in the mysterious power of painting itself, no matter what the color.