Loading...
review

Lucy White shapes Band-Aids, Kotex into art

Boston Globe review

White has developed a reputation as a hot young painter. Her bandage painting “Flag,” which is on display at the Toale gallery, graces the cover of the New England edition of this year’s “New American Paintings” survey. The DeCordova Museum has tapped her as part of next year’s retrospective of 50 years of painting in the region. The Maine Times declares White “arguably one of the most important painters to come out of Maine in the last decade.”


The Boston Globe
Friday, April 20, 2001
by Cate McQuaid

At her local drugstore, painter Lucy White is getting a reputation.

“I go to the store and buy tons of boxes of Band-Aids, and it’s always the same person at the counter,” White says with a wry smile. “One time, they asked, ” ‘Are you OK?’ “ White explained that she was an artist, buying art supplies.

“Oh, what kind of artist?” asked the clerk. “Landscapes?”

Not exactly. White told the fellow she painted with Band-Aids. She had been purchasing more boxes of sanitary napkins than might seem, well, normal. That’s because she makes prints with them.

The clerk turned toward others in the line. “Next.”

Through April 28, White is showing what she calls her “Band-Aid Paintings” at the Bernard Toale Gallery. She makes them by coating paper with paint, then affixing the bandages in the shape of, say, a bunny, a horse, or a gun. She paints another layer of color, then removes the bandages leaving a picture drawn in the clear, dimpled outlines of the bandages.

“Technically, I don’t use the Band-Aids,” White admits. “I use ones made by 3M. They’re called NexCare.”

Her “Kotex Diary” prints are part of “Domestic Culture,” a group exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art in Portland.

“I’m actually using Carefree and Lightdays,” she confesses. “They’re great. The paper keeps absorbing and absorbing.”

Suspicious drugstore clerks aside, White, 40, has developed a reputation as a hot young painter. Her bandage painting “Flag,” which is on display at the Toale gallery, graces the cover of the New England edition of this year’s “New American Paintings” survey.

The DeCordova Museum has tapped her as part of next year’s retrospective of 50 years of painting in the region. The Maine Times declares White “arguably one of the most important painters to come out of Maine in the last decade.”

She’s a sprite of a woman, with short, platinum blond hair. She moves around her North End studio nervously, sipping a beer, trying to convey what it is she does, but she is not quite at ease with her words. The studio, on the top floor of an eight-story building, is orderly. But bright, puffy pompoms are strewn across the floor. The artist put them there to distract from the dust when the building held an open studios event.

For each new show, White’s artist statement begins the same way: “I grew up in Maine in a house with a lawn, and a mother who took care of the house and a father who took care of the lawn.”

The place was Brunswick, Maine, overlooking Casco Bay. And suburban American identity is a frequent subject of her work.

Band-Aid painting on paper (2000)Band-Aid painting on paper (2000)Band-Aid painting on paper (2000)

White’s last show featured bandage paintings of houses: ranch houses, Colonials, Capes. The basic lines of the bandage drawings convey a 1950s idealism, but the material also speaks of wounds and simplistic solutions to harrowing problems. There’s the suggestion that maybe Beaver Cleaver had a few skeletons in his closet.

“The work is not 100 percent autobiographical,” White states. “It’s like writing fiction. I take some things from my life, but I change things around, too. But people relate. A lot of people see the work, and say, ‘Oh, this was my childhood.’ ”

She titles her works with the brand name most associated with the product she uses — such as Band-Aids and Kotex — because she sees humor and horror in what those products have come to represent in American culture: society’s emphasis on cleanliness and disposability, as seen through the lens of commerce. Whether the customer truly needs Band-Aids is not the point; the market convinces of the need. “There’s something superficial about the product,” White declares. “We never had Band-Aids in the house when I was growing up, and my father was a pediatrician. I think of them as being an all-American product.”

Alongside tamer subjects, the current Toale gallery show offers images of sex and violence. A gun, a beer, a female torso, and a bat, make up one suite of paintings. Lately, White has been churning out Band-Aid drawings, which she makes more quickly than the paintings. In the drawings, she leaves the bandages affixed to the paper. She favors decorative Band-Aids, and has made a gun drawing with brightly colored Barbie Band-Aids.

The artist has come a long way from the work she was doing back in 1993, when the Rose Art Museum showed her Minimalist works, rectangular paintings with natural forms like leaves, pods, and bugs embedded in layers of resin and sectioned off in grid or diamond patterns.

“The older pieces were about sitting, and meditating and being still,” White says.

She glances at the newer works, with their bright colors and pop images, with their Band-Aids and Kotex and Hand-Wipes, and smiles. “I guess I did kind of cut loose,” she says.

What’s next for White? Her work on the Band-Aid drawings — which feature text for the first time — has been “relentless,” so she has enough art for another solo show immediately. She just put up a Web site (www.lucywhite.com) and hopes it will help market her art.
Meanwhile, she already has a new idea on the drawing board.

White smiles. “I’m making some Kraft macaroni and cheese paintings.”

Leave a Comment