By Hanna Hannah

Miriam Hitchcock’s current work on exhibition at Bucheon Gallery (389 Grove Street, SF, through Oct. 11th) immerses the viewer in the myriad and inextricably meshed layers of both her private and cultural biographies.

Hitchcock works on supports made of a light, translucent paper material that seems to have been processed—or, rather, drowned—in some liquid medium; the surface, once dry again, has become richly eventful with topographical incidence. Hitchcock then seems to inflect, rather than strategically impose, her visual findings, almost as if the paper itself had served as a vast osmotic membrane or fishing net that allows her to bring to the surface the visual bits, pieces, personae, and passages of her life as they bifurcate with more communal cultural legacies. Her “catch” reveals mostly minor shards and evocative stains, as well as primally articulated figures that in their facture bear the traces of painting legacies from the cave age to the present. These emerge from the creases of the surface like isolated notes suspended over a deceptively symphonic emptiness: those visual incidents that do surface only hint at a density that informs them from below.

Miriam Hitchock’s Woman on the Shore, 2008, gouache, ink, acrylic and gesso on “constructed” paper

The figure in Woman on the Shore looks as if cut out of a family snapshot –taken perhaps during a bucolic weekend outing many years ago—that looks weathered and grainy. The generosity of the woman’s features and the expression on her face convey a sense of motherliness: all reassurance and love. We sense that the ground under her is solid by virtue of her presence alone. But the shore she sits on is only implied. There is a sense that remembered geographies –that “Paradise and Other Habitats,” to quote the artist— belie the solidity of geological outcroppings that existed someplace and sometime, but can exist now only as flatly painted areas wanly gesturing toward a sense of anchoring ground.

Road, 2008, mixed media on constructerd paper, 42″ x 34″, by Miriam Hitchcock

Road is a piece that highlights one of this group of work‚Äôs most vital aspects: its facture is its facticity. At the top left corner of Road, there is an irregular ovoid two-tone shape –white and blue‚Äîa blink of seascape?‚Äîagainst which part of an arm floats down appositionally with its hand holding what looks like some kind of a whitish cloth or hieratic shroud –or simply a kitchen towel. And as the towel‚Äôs shape unfurls and travels down the picture plane it transforms into a landscape that shows a road at a slight diagonal from the bottom edge in acute perspective. At the very end of the road, and at a greatly diminished size to convey vast distance, there is a receding car of vague vintage. What is striking here is how directly the ineffable and serendipitous quality of reverie is conveyed: a woman pausing absentmindedly in the middle of some activity while beset by some memory, which, mirage-like, absconds within the specificities of the very present.

Miriam Hitchcock’s Dinette, 2007

In Dinette a Renaissance-style image of the Madonna floats auratically above a jumble of prosaic diner furniture of some decades ago. However, it is the furniture, and not the saintly figure above, that is surrounded by gold. As applied in almost all of the works here, the gold element bears the cargo of associations with traditional religious painting; but in this work it flickers randomly as if looking for a place to land; or it surrounds mundane objects with its ineffable aura of sanctity. To invoke nostalgia in this work (and others in the show) would not be entirely off the mark; but it would clearly overlook the idiosyncratic complexity of time lines operative in this group of works. Almost without exception, each piece conveys a kind of melancholia that emanates unarguably from the naked, raw, and resonant painter’s touch; and from a vision in which the desolations of expulsion and estrangement can and do exist atemporally within the beatitudes and tenderness of Edenic enfoldment.

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