The Seasons at the Nassau County Museum of Art – Julie Curtiss

Brooklyn-based artist Julie Curtiss works with her own signature style of contemporary surrealism. Comparable to Magritte, her manner is classic and straightforward, like a hand painted photograph of something imagined. This portrayal of two people in fur-trimmed coats facing each other in a close embrace is an unusual, yet apt exemplar of winter. The title, Anemones, suggests that the protagonists are intertwined in a way similar to sea anemones, jellyfish-like marine animals, with a toxic venom. The hair-like strands outlining the hoods in this painting are not unlike fishy tentacles. The figures simultaneously embrace and repel with an otherworldly manner. The wavy brown tendrils, the curve of the puffs in the jackets and the covered spindly fingers all give this piece a graphic, yet poignant look. 

Curtiss explains that “by omitting the face, I want to frustrate the viewer. I can allude to a character’s personality and internal life by dropping clues here and there, and leave to the viewer the task of piecing the puzzle together.” When portraying figures, the artist rarely shows facial features. The pointy gloved hands are also part of her obsession with nails. She feels they refer to the wild, untamed beast in humans. Because of her background as the child of a Vietnamese mother and French father, she felt like an outsider while growing up in Paris. She explains, “I think this feeling of otherness is very important in my work, it translates through the uncanny, the play between attraction and repulsion.” Thus, her enigmatic artistic vocabulary varies with dark humor, vivid colors and unexpected shapes.

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