House of Rising Spirits

House of Rising Spirits

 

          When you come across Courtney Reid’s paintings you are catching a glimpse of a lost tribe of people who’ve remained untouched in a forgotten corner of the world. They are not posing for your benefit. They are not reinterpretations of us. These are not recreations of our experience. They are existing now, in their own world, keeping ever so still, breathing imperceptibly. They know you are watching them. In fact, they are watching you, from across the chasm of canvas, wondering whether to let you pass or slit your throat where you stand.

And why shouldn’t they be weary of us? We have made ourselves unrecognizable to these brethren under layers and layers of conditioning, social restraint, material comfort, and isolation created by technology. We are compacted by ego and ambition. In contrast, they stand with every instinct, every emotion, quivering and tender under the surface, like organs, perhaps just as vital, just under the thinnest, most fragile layer of skin.
So, they let us stay, but they make no effort to be effusive. We are such a society of demanding voyeurs that we expect them to fall all over us with their sobbing, sopping tales of woe. They don’t offer any disembodied text, symbols, touchstones that we could recognize to try and piece their story together. Reid’s characters have a quiet dignity. They emote, because they don’t know how not to. They are merely existing, as they would have if you had never come along, and they will remain this way long after you’ve gone.
These days, it seems that everyone is trying to dominate the center of a four-sided frame. They have a singular focus to grow big enough to block out the sun; to be the source of the color instead of the channel for it. This tribe knows very well how to camouflage, how to disappear into the landscape. Their outlines are just barely visible enough to serve as the scope through which we can take in the colors that would otherwise overwhelm us as incomprehensible. The colors, and the feelings they evoke, seem to pre-exist us. Courtney Reid will make you believe that the colors invented the emotions. She’ll make you think she invented the colors.

In House of Rising Spirits, Reid took her inspiration from the joys and challenges of single motherhood. After all, what other experience in life can peel back every last layer from you until your every instinct and emotion are trembling before the world?

 

                                                                                                     Marybeth Connaughton