Reviews & Essays
Woman’s place is in her art
South End News
At first blush, Laura Shabott and Regina Granne appear to have little in common. Shabott’s work is spare and flat, her figures simply drawn and reminiscent of Picasso and Munch, and she luxuriates inher materials. Granne, on the other hand, is a realist; her paintings are precise narratives, and she places no emphasis on her paint, as Shabott does. While her work is highly formal, Granne doesn’t play fast and loose with form, but uses it as a hard guide for her narrative, as apoet would use the constraints of a sestina or a sonnet to hone an image to its razor’s edge. Nonetheless, Shabott and Granne share a common theme in their examination of women finding their place in the world.

Regina Granne’s work is equally emotionally potent, but for a different reason. Where Shabott is out there with hot red paint and embraces, Granne achieves a tension that is just under the surface, not quite acknowledging the danger and confusion lurking under her smooth, flawless skin of paint.

Granne’s drawings are careful, symmetrical compositions of plants, gourds, and tangerines on a rich, creamy paper. In one untitled piece, a small orange tangerine sits at the bottom of the drawing like an eye, imagining all that goes on above it. Four deftly drawn golden walnuts are scattered in a rough circle above it, and a small, square table with curved, sculpted legs and an inlaid top squats over the nuts. The vines, leaves and flowers sketched into the table top halo a bowl of large walnuts, and another tangerine sits about that, mirroring the bottom images. A vibrant potted plant tops off the drawing, with vast jagged leaves and crazy tangled stems, adding an element of chaotic fecundity to this otherwise perfectly controlled piece.

Plants show up again in one of the two paintings in this small show. Granne’s paintings are as precise and controlled as her drawings; not a stray brush stroke or hint of impulse shows in these works. The drama isn’t in the paint, but in the narrative. In “Nude in Interior,” a potted plant, two pears, an apple, and a green pepper sit on a formica table alongside a gray-purple earthenware jar and a standing blue vase filled with a spray of pink buds and a large, dramatic red flower arching toward the center of the work. Beyond the table, a nude woman lies on an aquamarine blanket on the floor, her legs crossed and propped up on the blue, unmade bed beyond her. What is she doing there? What is she thinking of? Her nudity, though beautiful and carefully rendered, isn’t there just for the sake of beauty; she is both exposed and intimate, caught in an unthinking moment, surrounded by still life.

“Mate” is similarly composed, but this time, a chess game is set up in the foreground, with large black and white pieces dominating the piece. They are bold and demanding, insistent in their smooth, hard form on the brown checked board. Behind the game, there is a wooden box of captured pieces and twodeep green mugs. On the floor beyond the table, seemingly far away fromthe drama and focus of the game, a nude woman lies on the edge of a white blanket. Her posture is submissive, her hand turned palm up and her head lolling to the side. She seems to be a victim of the intrigue that has taken place on the chess board, a sacrifice of living flesh to logic.

- Cate McQuaid