In Elegy, Daignault presents a new series of black-and-white paintings exploring environmental collapse. Created in monochrome, Daignault’s subjects—trees, glaciers, disasters, and the infamous kiss between Al Gore and Tipper—exist beyond reality, fading into memory, history, and death. Each canvas is an elegy, a metaphor for the contrast between eternal forces: black and white, life and death, love and loss. These works look back to Picasso’s Guernica, and through Picasso to Robert Motherwell’s Elegies and Andy Warhol’s Death and Disasters. As in those precursors, the subject is abject horror—the sickness of bearing witness to an unthinkable global tragedy and the dilemma of how art might make sense of collective trauma. Robert Motherwell described his Elegies as “an insistence that a terrible death had happened that should not be forgotten.” Daignault too insists on remembrance, creating each painting as a lament to the passing of the natural world—to the redwood, to the Angel Oak, to the tortoise, and to the unsustainable contemporary life.
Daignault is known for serial works that often involve hundreds of small paintings. In Elegy, she takes this practice to a new scale, ﬁlling the entire gallery with a continuous line of larger works. Opposing the nihilism of digital image streams, she instead uses groups of images to build overarching narrative. Daignault often compares this process to that of writing poetry; each frame functions like a single word—complete and meaningful unto itself—while the group operates like a poem—able to express more complex ideas and emotions, even those incommunicable in language. This connection to poetry is especially clear in her latest text paintings, Remember you will die, appearing here as an epilogue to the image works. The show is hung edge-to-edge, and the effect is ﬁlmic. Jump cuts between the bucolic and the tragic recall early cinema like Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin. Daignault positions her work between ﬁlm and painting, and the references to black-and-white photography are many. Here, Daignault invokes photography as a powerful metaphor for loss. A camera captures a transitory moment before it disappears forever, much like a species, or a tree, or a life. Above all, Elegy is a American landscape painting show—expressive, painterly, and historical—exploring the contemporary experience of environment. Daignault focuses the work on the paradox between beauty and loss—the essential American irony. The country deﬁnes itself through a sublime landscape that its very existence destroys. Memento Mori. Life is beautiful, even as we are dying a little each day.