Offering brief, closely-encountered narrative moments between a woman/sculpture and a ram/sheep, Wiesenfeld’s primarily large-scaled oil paintings call upon and torque the traditions of both Classical Greek art and Romanticism. Temporality, choice, and an insistent dialogue between reason and emotion (presented as two parts of the same whole) are frequent themes in Wiesenfeld’s practice, along with the use of multiple-imagery. In A Love Uneven, the pairing of unexpected elements continues, but the angle and focus has changed. The figures exist with one another in tight quarters, cropped at odd angles, with features visible only from the neck up, and no context in the space behind them other than dark or bold color, and the strong presence of draped fabric.
Though invoking artistic traditions in which the pain of grief or the ecstasy of spirituality became fodder for humanistic gesture in stone or paint, Wiesenfeld’s works themselves inhabit a discomfiting space in which the critical distance necessary for subjective entry is disallowed. The drama of the characters and composition is amplified at every turn by narrative refusal, by the opacity of the story itself. The relationship between woman and animal is revealed in such close-up that any understanding of the particulars of the love story is inferred in the space between paintings, more than revealed in the paintings themselves. The sensual and the immovable come face to face (each character takes its turn being more flesh than stone), but without the catharsis of narrative apex, we are left unsatisfied, attempting again and again to find a way in to the story.
Each character in these paintings uses the other to try to reach beyond what they are, but of course, in the end, a sheep is a sheep, a statue is a statue, and—Wiesenfeld would argue—a painting is a painting. Transcendence is constantly attempted but remains out of reach, for the characters as well as for Wiesenfeld’s audience, who are denied subjective identification. The Woman gives us no eyes to see into—she is either stone, or flesh with eyes closed—and the eyes we are afforded are those of the Ram, looking out with complete apathy. Satisfaction for the characters comes in the moment itself, and for the audience in the pleasure and transportation of the compositions, which are consciously and unapologetically beautiful. Here, we see Wiesenfeld creating a parable of representational painting, which though unable to transcend its own surface, argues for its own persistence in many ways through the pursuit of impossible pleasure.

Deb Klowden Mann

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