Chicago-based artist Lorraine Peltz explores the ideas of memory, identity and the positioning of women in society, within the frame, and framework, of a canvas. “The work often begins from an autobiographical position and then moves outward to the public arena,” Peltz explains. A painter of 25 years, Peltz translates her experiences as an artist, a woman, a mother and wife, and as a teacher, by way of isolating a single, personal image within a field of color and patterning.
Originally from Brooklyn, Peltz made her way to the Midwest to study at The University of Chicago, where she found that painting was the language most fitting to interpret the world around her. This sounds as if Peltz’s work is heavily anthropologic, which is true, in a sense; however, Peltz has structured her paintings to focus on a singular object, making it exist both as an idiosyncratic icon, personal to her, as well as a generalized symbol and metaphor for a grander thought. Like a 17th-century Dutch still-life painting, her work recognizes a time period and a culture by way of the objects rendered on the canvas. From flowers to fruit, to Go-Go boots and even Hostess cupcakes, Peltz paints to suggest a time when women were moving out of the home and into the workplace, and the tools and objects associated with their labors were vastly changing. “Gender is important,” Peltz explains. “Place is important, difference is important. Being a woman has structured everything I have done.” Camouflaging her own life events within a broader conversation, her work distills her feminist impulses through her rigorous explorations in painting.
“I am interested in story-telling to some degree but more in the vein of poetry rather than prose,” Peltz explains. The statements she creates with her visual voice are succinct, yet this creates a directness that comes from her ability to design a painting in order to accentuate the information that is most important. Her most recent body of work, which was on display in a solo exhibition titled, “Dazzling and Bright,” at Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago, presented several iterations of a single, ornate chandelier, which Peltz explained as a light fixture she remembers from her motherÕs home. Color, scale and application of material built variety in the multiple renditions of the chandelier, giving it moods from heavy and stoic to bright and celebratory. To Peltz, the chandelier image is another step in drawing the personal into the public, considering large light fixtures are often centerpieces in areas associated with congregation. There is an imagined scale and color to the way Peltz approaches the chandelier, while the pictorial events she creates about it give insight into her studio process, which is balanced with equal parts research and playful experimentation. “Color and shape loom large as an attempt to see and process the events unfolding around me. I am a painter,” she says. “I like the feel of paint, the activity of painting.”
Peltz begins each piece with a small sketch, gathers research and sources of inspiration, then allows the paint the organic qualities it possesses, its fluidity and spontaneity, until both Peltz and the painting are “happy,” she says. These painterly moments can be seen best in the environments she creates around the images she focuses on.
Ultimately it is the effortless look and the playful sensibility in Peltz’s work that gives her authority. From her flirtatious use of language in titling her paintings to her confidence when using bold and primary colors, Peltz has developed a richly appealing body of work dedicated to the exploration of visual meanings and personal and collective symbolism.
“Lorraine Peltz: Dazzling and Bright” was on view at Packer Schopf Gallery, in Chicago, from September 9 — October 29, 2011.