GLASS SLIPPER AND A HOT FLASH is about perspectives or angles on a story. The pieces in the exhibition revel in the romance and estrogen coated shimmer of fairy tales in which the characters move in familiar narratives, but it’s the storyteller, who, by filling in certain juicy details and manipulating the script is able to deliver a sobering counter-narrative that spells out all-too-familiar cultural beliefs.
Vredeveld uses the abstract language of expressionist marks, performing sometimes perfectly decisive moves layered with self-doubting edits and a backstory of menopausal mood shifts, along with found objects and images from the era of a tail-end baby boomer to create work that reflects the progress and backlash of Feminism’s long haul.
I have been working with gender expectations/perspectives using imagery and narrative from well-known folk tales over the past three years. Special, insider information resides in these stories, and my work not only explores the elements and turns of these tales but draws attention to the teller or dealer of this knowledge – the “old crone” – an improbable source of knowledge by our culture’s standards, and somewhat of an outsider – perhaps a post-menopausal woman (like myself?)
Old wives’ tales have power. What has the teller to gain? She’s not telling to woo, to gain power, or manipulate. She’s telling from observation and experience. She’s passing on through stories the way things are and the way things could be (paraphrasing from Marina Warner, From Beast to Blonde); passing on to the next generation ways to survive and have perspective, presenting alternative realities to what one is supposed to accept.
I find that these fairytales are richer and more mind-blowing than I expected. I stand back and let them tell me things. The way a story gets sorted over several centuries of retelling is nothing to dismiss. These tales have crossed land and sea, been retold in vastly different social and economic circumstances, and so have become tightly crafted, rich in metaphor, and accurate in observation of human character.
For example, having spent a couple of years with The Little Mermaid narrative, I was in awe at her incredible ambition to “rise to the top” and get what she wanted at great personal cost and physical pain, yet it didn’t work, really, and she did it for a guy who ultimately thought of her as a dear family pet. The aspects of the stories where the heroic is compromised and motive and desire have messy twists is what I want to paint about, like, the Little Mermaid getting excited about wearing a bikini for the first time, or not being prepared for sunburn. Perspective and interest reveal new depths.
Just prior to the time that I began working with fairytales, I found a bunch of vintage 1970’s – 80’s classroom ephemera at the estate sale of a retired teacher. Bulletin board material – letters, shapes, and imagery used to teach – made its way into the collages I was working on. Besides the flavor and nostalgia that these paper materials bring to the work, there is a reference to encountering knowledge and revisiting that impressionable place and time where we learn a certain relationship to the world, and it happened through flimsy things like strips of images around the edges of chalkboards and messages made from cut-out letters.
My compositions borrow from the pages of paper-doll activity books where clothes and objects are squeezed into space-saving pages with hand-drawn, enticing marks that divide areas, instruct where/how to cut, or suggest certain combinations for narratives. In this way, my negative spaces are set-like, full of possibility. New vignettes invite surprising combinations.
Important in these works is that things are changeable. Elements recur in slightly different contexts, cross-pollinating from one story or collection to the next. The moveable castles and manors or swatches can be tried out in a different setting. Times and eras are shaken/tossed together.
My main tool as an artist is the wide painted line. The gestural mark is the storyteller’s voice, the line of performance, and openness. It finds, it tells, and it responds, and it revises. I admire the ab-ex bravado and mastery in line, but also know that it invites the unknown and unplanned, keeping it honest. The meaning shifts at unexpected turns, lending insight, and revelation.
As befits High Low and its relationship to the literary arts, I highlight my use of two books that have been the source of many images in this exhibition: an oversized black and white coffee table book from the 1960s, Great Houses of the Western World by Nigel Nicholson, (1968) as well as a paperback travel guide for Florence by Edoardo Bonechi from the same year. Getting a feel for the particular fantasy that these books intended (or not) to awaken. The setting is not now and not here. It exists in our fantasies about places in stories and offers a touch of the real or a remnant of a time, but you need to insert your own material to complete. They offer a way to explore subjects and fantasies that aren’t bound by circumstances.
The exhibition’s vitrine functions as perspective. Stuffed with found material, textural and color references, things under consideration, studio inspiration, and stuff that holds yet unknown meaning, it allows the viewer to see relationships between objects chosen and finished artworks. It completes the picture and gives context for the work to come.
I’d like to thank the Kranzberg Arts Foundation for the opportunity to show at High Low.
Thanks to Eric Shultis, Zora Vredeveld, and Arlo Shultis for their beautiful inspiration and support.
Special thanks to Steve Lobacz for 23 years of generous support.
Thanks to Ryan Doyle for lending his curatorial skills to this exhibition.
LINDA VREDEVELD is an abstract figurative painter whose work has been exhibited in Chicago, St. Louis, and Albuquerque, as well as other cities in the Midwest. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, she graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Her most recent solo exhibition was at The Bermuda Project in St. Louis (May 2019). 2021 brings a solo exhibition at Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s High Low Gallery, a show at Southwestern Illinois College, and a solo exhibition at Principia College. In 2017 she was a finalist in the Contemporary Art Museum’s Great Rivers Biennial. She was awarded residencies at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois in 2011 and 2012. Her work is in the Drawing Center’s Viewing Program Artist Registry. It has been featured in solo exhibitions at Knox College and Blackburn College in Illinois, in a group exhibition at Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, in “Think Small” at the Illinois State Museum, a group show featuring small works by Illinois artists, and at The University of Missouri – St. Louis’s Gallery 210 in the “Exposure 10 Years” and “Exposure 8” exhibitions. Her work has been reviewed in The Chicago Reader, Dialogue, The Chicago Tribune, and The St. Louis Post Dispatch. She has been represented by Locus Gallery in St. Louis, and by Chicago galleries Lyons Weir and Gwenda Jay. Currently, her work is handled by Rider for Life in Chicago.
Vredeveld lives in Alton with her husband, Eric Shultis, also an artist. They have two children – Arlo, a musician, and Zora, an actor and singer.