© Mary Henderson

Lacrosse Players, 2006
oil on panel, 11" x 14"

Mary Henderson
Right Clique

Lyons Wier · Ortt Contemporary Art is pleased to announce "Right Clique," Mary Henderson's first New York solo exhibition.

Mary Henderson could be broadly recognized as a Contemporary Realist painter. Her deftness of hand recalls the Photorealism of painters such as Richard Estes or Ralph Goings while her subject matter and compositions are much more aligned with the spirit of contemporary representational artists like Tim Gardner.

Comprised of hyper-real oil on panel and gouache on paper paintings, all no larger than 11" X 14", the subject matter of this body of work explores the world of elite high school girls. For Mary, her interest in this arena is highly personal: she attended an all-girls' prep school in Los Angeles, and then later taught at a similar institution in Philadelphia's Main Line suburbs. Both schools were filled with students very much as the girls depicted in these images - the kind of girls who will describe each other as "smart and pretty." As something of an outsider in these cliquish settings, Mary was simultaneously drawn to and alienated from these girls. Mary found, and still finds, so much to admire in them: they are seemingly smart, accomplished, poised, and beautiful in a natural and almost effortless way. At the same time, there is something foreign and mysterious in the uncomplicated confidence they appear to bring to their lives.

In previous bodies of work, Mary would glean through family photo albums in search of images that aligned with her then agenda. She then explored friends' and acquaintances' photo albums for material. As she exhausted source material on hand, she turned to the Internet, first out of necessity but now out of fascination. As Mary delved into web posting communities and blogs like "Myspace" and "Flickr", she found entire snapshot diaries. The source material eventually used is derived from snapshots posted by these girls themselves on photo sharing websites; they therefore represent not just moments in the lives of these young women, but also those images of their lives that they have chosen to make available for public viewing. In a world of Reality TV and cyber communities, the inspiration for this work comes from the burgeoning cyber-social networking phenomenon so pervasive in today's youth culture, as much as it does from the subjects of the paintings themselves.

As with all snapshots, the initial significance of the source images lies in who or what the pictures capture, rather than in their artistic merits as photographs. What Henderson has successfully done in this body of work is synthesize the visual and cultural associations of two disparate media, photography and painting. The paintings consider the ways in which the accidental information captured in the snap-shots can take on an iconic quality, becoming in retrospect emblematic of a larger personal experience and cultural phenomenon. In translating an image from snapshot to painting, she explores the way that visual content is changed when it is moved from the medium of casual photography - a form associated with impermanence and reduced aesthetic demands - to the realm of painting, which bears the burden of aspirations to permanence and high aesthetics.

By cropping, editing out or compositing information - and through the more tactile, physical manipulations of color and surface that painting allows - she shifts the emphasis of the image to pieces of information that may have been peripheral in the original picture. The result is a painting that has the appearance of a faithful rendering, but which often deviates substantially from its source material and speaks volumes on how one witnesses a cultural shift towards a cyber Zeitgeist.

Mary Henderson received her AB in Fine Arts in 1995 from Amherst College in Amherst, MA, and her MFA in Painting in 2001 from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, where she currently lives and works.

Exhibition: September 7 - October 14, 2006
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 11 am - 6 pm

Lyons Wier · Ortt Contemporary Art
511 W 25th St., No. 205
USA-New York, NY 10001
Telephone +1 212 242 62 20
Fax +1 212 242 62 38
Email lyonswier@hotmail.com