IN REPOSE

According to scientists, for the human body to function properly we need rest even more than we need food. The importance of rest makes it a recurring subject in art, and it can't be ignored that subjects at rest are often the easiest for figurative artists to grasp.

“Repose” means many things for contemporary artists. For some, like Sam Bornstein or Lillian Page Walton, repose means a moment out of time, a meditative excision from the activity of everyday life. In Sam Bornstein’s Quilters Catch an Asp on the Picture Frame, craftwork in an interior produces a sense of silent contemplation, camaraderie, and the passing on of traditional skills. Lillian Paige Walton’s figures are also often caught in a moment of stillness, evoking the domestic subject matter and harmonious palettes of Henri Matisse. Her wax pencil drawings deploy careful cross-hatching to produce subtle dark and light tonalities or peaceful halos on her objects and figures.

But subjects in repose can sometimes have more complicated social implications. In Weary as I Can Be, by Adrienne Elise Tarver, a woman basks in the sunset of a tropical paradise, reclining in a comfortable outdoor chair. The backlit figures behind her suggest a social gathering that the subject seems to have taken a break from, evoking the familiar feeling of an introvert’s need to turn inward when immersed in a crowd.

Paula Kamp’s Sleeping it Off also confuses indoors and outdoors, but it is more ambiguous. Here, two side-by-side figures are placed under scrappy patchwork blankets on a sidewalk or a road, suggesting they have fallen on tough times. The title also adds to this narrative, referring to a long night, and substance abuse. Nonetheless, there is an element of respect in the artist’s treatment of these figures, an acknowledgment of the universal need for rest, whatever life gives us.