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Painting the bold and delicate Bald Faced Hornet

Curtis Poortinga's Strange Invasion, Thee Eye

November 2012

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“Bald Faced Hornet” painting by Curtis Poortinga

Response from guest contributor Megan Cohen

November 6, 2012

Walking into Thee Eye’s current exhibition “Strange Invasion”, I became thoroughly confused.  What was with the furniture?  Pee colored couches, vintage Coke machines, a record player, and an over the top ash tray littered the gallery space.  Each painting was accompanied by what I can only describe as a seventies version of an Ashley’s Furniture Store showroom display.  Was the gallery presenting this furniture as works of art?  Or was this perhaps a statement to make fun of people who buy artwork to match their furniture?  Whatever statement was trying to be made, it unfortunately took away from the real artwork of Curtis Poortinga’s paintings and I will go as far as to say that it degraded them.  Furniture belongs in furniture stores and if you want something to go over your fireplace that will match your couch, I suggest cruising the “art” isle in Target.

With that said, I do feel that Curtis Poortinga deserves recognition for his paintings. “Bald Faced Hornet” echoes several different mediums into one unique painting style.   The wings, composed of sharp straight lines creating perfectly delicate geometrical shapes like a tessellation, resemble a stained glass window.  The dark black body of the hornet contrasted with the light yellow background shows similarities of a wood block print.  But the shine and delicate outlining with attention to detail around the hornet’s legs show us Poortinga is in fact, a bold painter.   Maybe if M.C. Escher illustrated science text books, we might have seen something similar, but he didn’t so we can call it original. The use of dark reds and yellows against the body reads “Warning: I sting!” yet the delicacy emphasized in the wings reads “But I’m still fragile”.  I wasn’t sure what an actual bald faced hornet looked like, so I looked it up when I got home.  Poortinga stayed true to the insect’s colors and anatomy and opted to give us movement in more expressive ways by abstracting the wings and zig-zagging around the legs to promote a buzz.  “Bald Faced Hornet” is a nice composition and at $350 probably under-priced.   But seriously, what was with the furniture?