New Works by de Young artist fellow Adrienne Heloise
Adrienne has been working hard in her studio space in the Kimball Education Gallery. Typically, her work depicts figures from Napoleonic and French Romantic battle scenes. During her first few weeks in the Kimball Gallery, Adrienne decided to venture out into a new frontier of the American art – an early American painting from the de Young’s permanent collection, Boatmen on the Missouri (1846), by George Caleb Bingham. Through it, Adrienne is exploring her own relationship to early American concepts and her personal resistance to notions of idealized history as she searches for the hidden brutality behind the scenes and questions how iconic imagery contrasts with today’s concepts of patriotism.
Her rendition of Boatmen on the Missouri is a stylized, colorful collage of cut paper on a wooden canvas. The overflow of objects and decorative ornamentation around her central figures reflects themes of excess in early American paintings. She desires a “claustrophobic abundance” to enhance themes of surplus and plenty.
Similar to her other work, her interest stems from her dissection of “masculinity.” The depiction of male bodies representing American “freedom” brings to light how ideas become gendered in the American past. How was the “protestant work ethic” defined by American artists and how was masculinity revealed in this romanticized, glorified genre of painting? Adrienne’s take on the 19th-century painting explores a genre that omits certain truths of American history. However, it is also an exploration of an artist coming to terms with her own identity in the American genre.
– taken from Kelsey Middlebrook, de Young intern