The fickle mistress of memory is the focus of Buffalo Arts Studio’s latest installation “Committed to Memory,” crafted by mother, retired teacher and local artist Dorothy Fitzgerald. Her installation is huge and spacious, consisting of 24 paintings. Each piece features abstract and recognizable imagery that will ignite conversations not only between individuals, but between the viewer and the painting.
One such piece, “Unsalted Butter,” features this iconography amid a mix of pop-art influences. The painting’s backdrop looks somewhat like a mat black chalkboard, with the figure of the little girl from Morton’s Salt logo to the right. A rose emerges from where the girl stands, shifting your gaze to the cutout of a Cessna plane behind what seems to be dripping blood.
This piece also features contrasting color palates that include black, green and red, as well as scribbles that evoke a sense that these are not so much child markings, but rather the artist personally showcasing her gestures as she stokes the brush against the canvas. In other words, Fitzgerald is putting herself on the canvas for you to see.
This notion of personality and relatability is a theme echoed throughout the entire exhibit that one can even say that Fitzgerald is directly giving her audience a glimpse into her life.
This can be seen on another painting, “Fill Your Life with Interests,” where Fitzgerald centers a fabric swatch drizzled with green shag material in the shape of a pine tree, surrounded by blues and greens, as well as what seems to be pencil scribblings toward the bottom. Once again, these “scribbles” are actually gestural markings by Fitzgerald.
“Dorothy is an extremely sophisticated artist and she is trying to be direct,” Buffalo Arts Studio curator Shirley Verrico said. “The works are gestural, something unique to [the artist].”
Not only is “Fill Your Life with Interests” personal because of Fitzgerald’s gestural marks, the blue and green color palate echoes the life Fitzgerald is living now in a lake house in Lyndonville, surrounded by water and nature.
Another point to emphasize is that the imagery and material she uses resembles an attitude toward feminism. For example, the fact that she leaves price tags and copyright logos on these fabrics as well as the use of the female Morton’s Salt logo can also be seen as a statement on consumerism and its relation to the feminine. Even further, according to Verrico, her depictions of women in these paintings meet the viewer’s gaze at eye level, something rarely done by artists.
This can be seen best seen in the work “Antique, Trash, or Treasure,” where Fitzgerald, once again using a bluish-green color palate, depicts the naked female figure. The breasts of this figure meet eye level, which Lacanians would claim as the painting staring back at you. To emphasize this point even more, Fitzgerald drew a magnifying-glass-like-shape around the areola of one of the breasts to intentionally draw your gaze toward it.
The exhibit is in two parts: the first is all oil on paper, the next is mostly oil on canvas with the exception of two pieces that are oil on wood board. As an aging artist and mother of four, perhaps Fitzgerald’s goal with these paintings is to balance a fading memory and one that has the potency of a child’s.
What: Dorothy Fitzgerald: Committed to Memory
When: Through May 6
Where: Buffalo Arts Studio, Tri-Main Center 2495 Main St.