Amy Bennett’s paintings offer a window into what Eleanor Heartney termed the “unhistoric acts” of everyday life. In this new body of work, Bennett calls attention to these seemingly unremarkable moments of contemporary family life by painting them on a miniature scale, encouraging the viewer to take a closer look.
In order to create her depictions of domestic activity, the artist builds miniscule three-dimensional models and then paints what she sees, working from both her imagination and from life. Using everyday materials such as wood, Styrofoam, and plastic, Amy Bennett fabricates her own worlds whose scenes inform her paintings.
What results from this model world is a stream of narratives that Bennett translates into her paintings in a style that Heartney calls “an unsettling kind of realism – simultaneously artificial and naturalistic.” Whilst her compositions represent a moment frozen in time, they are by no means static; her paintings buzz with the energy of a living experience. As Heartney writes, “The glimpses we are afforded are always partial, although in somecases the continuity of setting suggests that we may be observing different moments in a connected narrative.”
By isolating fleeting and quotidian moments, Bennett invites the viewer to introspect on what is often overlooked. Upon closerinvestigation, these moments reveal themselves as more unsettling than comfortable. The artist’s use of differing perspectives—incorporating both bird’s eye views and zoomed-in close ups—simultaneously creates the comfort of context and a sense of disorientation.
On this new body of work, Bennett remarks, “I have painted scenes of suburban home life in the past, but they were more related to themes of isolation and voyeurism... Now that I am entrenched in family life myself, my perspective has shifted. ‘Nuclear Family’ is more concerned with the vulnerabilities and anxieties of parenthood and marriage.”
Witnessed together, these paintings celebrate Amy Bennett’s deft and precise use of color and light. The exhibition at 520 West 21st Street is rich in character—even literary—and ultimately calls attention to the mysteries that often pervade ordinary life.