Field of Vision

When one of my favorite artists came to town to exhibit her work, I made sure I was at the opening to hear her gallery talk. I have been following Maggie Siner‘s work for years but have never actually seen her artwork in person. Her paintings have a rare immediacy – they capture impressions without necessarily being impressionistic. By that I mean that Maggie Siner paints a plate of melon rinds, or a dress carelessly thrown over a chair the way your eye would capture a scene if you just glimpsed it for a fleeting moment before looking away.

Melon Slices, 2021, 10x18ins, oil on linen
Turquoise Dress & Letter, 2021, 12x17ins, oil on linen

Maggie is an American artist who divides her time between Venice and Loudon County, VA. Her resume is beyond impressive – she has been on the faculty of L’Institut d’Universités Américaines and Lacoste School of Art in France, a visiting professor at Xiamen University in China, Artist in Residence at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Dean of Faculty at the Washington Studio School. The woman has painting chops. But hearing her speak about painting is equally inspiring.

Turquoise Vase, 2016, 24x28ins, oil on linen

In her gallery talk, Maggie made it abundantly clear that narrative is not of the essence. We may want to impose our meaning and narrative on the painting above, for example, but what the artist gets excited about are colors and shapes and drapery – especially drapery, which she describes as “telling the story of the universe, because drapery is all about gravity, and gravity is the story of the universe.”

Central Pillows, 2017, 24x30ins, oil on linen

It’s when you get up close to Siner’s work that you see the real magic she creates with paint. Look at a detail of the painting above:

This bowl of mandarins just blew me away.

Mandarins on Plate, 2020, 14x16ins, oil on linen
Detail of mandarins

Siner spoke about the struggles and challenges she still faces with every painting. “Starting a new painting is like jumping into a mud puddle and figuring out how to get out again.” She paints exclusively from life with a limited palette of six colors of the spectrum. She makes it a point to stand far back from her subjects so that she purposely loses the sharp edges and unimportant detail. Siner applies intellectual consideration to every aspect of painting. “Boundaries create tension,” said Siner, referring to the placement of a composition within a rectangle. “Things hit against the limits and the edges.” Her enthusiasm for her work and her subjects was contagious. She got positively giddy when talking about radishes. “Radishes are events – all that green and red, and the tails!!!”

Radishes on Gray, 2020, 14x18ins, oil on linen

Siner’s exhibition will be on view at Susan Calloway in Georgetown, Washington DC until January 18th.

I highly recommend a visit! What do you think of Siner’s paintings?

Blue Dress & Letter, 2020, 20x21ins, oil on linen