Amy Bennett at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
Amy Bennett: Nuclear Family
March 9 - June 16, 2019
“Amy Bennett: Nuclear Family” is a series of narrative paintings based on intricate 3D models. “I built a diorama of a fictional rural landscape and gradually developed it into farmland and ultimately, a town,” Bennett said. “Beginning with an 8-foot square of styrofoam, I carved mountains, valleys, rivers and ponds, and propagated a verdant fake landscape with hundreds of wire and foam trees. I fabricated over 450 wooden buildings in 1/500 scale (similar to the size of a Monopoly hotel): houses, garages, commercial buildings, storefronts, and schools and painted each by hand. The tiny structures gradually populated my artificial town. I then mapped the complete village and stages of development over time, documenting the changes in my model through a series of paintings and monotypes.” Bennett’s unusual process affords her complete control over lighting, composition, and vantage point and enables her to achieve a desired dramatic effect in her paintings.
The impulse to tell stories through images is as old as humankind. Amy Bennett’s deftly rendered paintings engage us in narratives of a community. Her manipulation of vantage point affords the viewer a voyeuristic glimpse at the private, familial dramas taking place throughout the neighborhood.
The manner in which Bennett paints her scenes toggles between precise representation (human actors and built environment) and flowing, gestural passages (natural environment). Her rendering of homes, characterized by cut-away rooftops and walls, references doll house construction, theatrical set design models, and cinematic storyboarding.
What are these characters doing? What are they feeling? How did they find themselves in this setting or situation? What has the artist allowed us to see? What is implied but not seen? Are we being offered a way to meditate on our own daily rituals and settings? When and how did the quotidian become dramatic?
— Mara Williams, Chief Curator
Nuclear Family explores marriage, child rearing, and female identity. The series considers the deep commitments of marriage and raising children, along with the joys and entrapments of family life.
My paintings are representations of a miniaturized world, playing at reality. To guide each painting, I build a temporary 3D model that becomes a stage on which I develop narratives. The model offers me complete control over lighting, composition, and vantage point to achieve my desired dramatic effect.
Working from models helps me to process and extract bits of my experience in order to make what is in my imagination more concrete. Taking advantage of the clumsy inadequacies of miniatures—their slight shifts of scale and reduced detail help convey a sense of artifice and distance—I try to paint the scenes in a way that feels like a believable, but alternate, fabricated world.
— Amy Bennett
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