Unfixable at Transpace Gallery

By Sarah Foote

January 11, 2018

Unfixable: simultaneously a state of mind and physical state of location, or lack thereof. In the case of Brie McCauley’s BFA show this past month, the two mingle together in an experience that yields discovery and introspection, all through a vibrant and nuanced application of shape and color. Each work invites the viewer on a journey; layer upon layer leads the eye farther and farther down deceptively spontaneous paths. Paths that open into subtle spaces of shape and color, which, though purely abstract, feel like signifiers in worlds unknown.

A particularly striking instance of this experience comes with the work "uncertain terrain". Here McCauley cleverly balances that which is fixable with that which is not. Her bold ochre masking that dominates the painting very effectively cause the audience to take pause, and forces the eye to fix on the spaces left exposed. These spaces act as portals into another world---complex, many layered, and built with much care over much time. Shapes collide and colors vibrate in an external experience that we cannot help but to internalize. Solid and transparent, some crisp, some dripping with intention, vie together like occupants in a too-crowded room. The work becomes an unpacking of time and experience; covered over in part with a flat layer, a fresh start. But allowed to still peer through are the personas of layers and gestures past, which, for all of their uncertainty, embody the beauty and the struggle inherent in the artistic process and beyond.

While McCauley’s paintings feel meandering and expansive, her embroidered prism works offer a soft counterpoint to her louder painting language. These five pieces exude quiet confidence in their existence. Their size and material offer an intimacy that the larger paintings do not, and their multiplicity allow for growth and expansion that extend beyond the confines of the canvas. The structure of the shapes McCauley builds in a regular measure, with trace of the shape before evident in the shape after. This growth pattern is masked by clever use of color, which trick the eye into dismissing any such direct relationship. The subtlety at work here, down to the laborious and time consuming nature of the material, most poignantly underscore the larger ideas at work in Unfixable.

Caught between intention and misdirection, we are put at crossroads of uncertainty and quiet confidence. This collision in an experience that is not simply visually exciting, but relatable, and a rite of passage that is to be exalted for its impermanence, for we will one day mourn the thrill of the unfixable.

Images courtesy of the artist.


Sarah Foote is a Graphic Designer and Artist earning her BFA in design and painting from Illinois State University. In addition to developing Sight Specific’s branding, Sarah has worked as a graphic designer for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, the Vidette, and the Town of Normal. Now working as a freelance designer, her clients include the Town of Normal, Uptown Normal, The Garlic Press, and Jan Brandt Gallery.