In "Phantom Thread" Paige Beeber's Paintings Point, Puncture, and Stitch

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • April 20, 2023

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Paige Beeber’s recent paintings on view in Phantom Thread at Freight + Volume extend her commitment to mark-making as a metaphor for psychological and social transformations. With a grammar of marks that reference weaving and needlepoint, Beeber shows how small, diligent acts of making and repairing—which are often gendered feminine—can be even more heroic and romantic than gratuitous acts of violence. Beeber points to sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1986 essay “The Carrier-Bag Theory of Fiction,” in which Le Guin asks her readers to reimagine stories of female-oriented “gathering” with as much life-or-death drama as male-oriented “hunting.” Instead of writing “with my spear, I slay this bear,” she wonders, why not tell “a gripping tale of how we wrested the wild oats from their husks”? Beeber takes up this challenge in her paintings, producing bold compositions filled with high drama and risk but with none of the clichés of Action Painting.

Beeber created some of the works in this show after hand-cutting her older paintings into thin strips, which became the raw material for the new work. Although the process of cutting was painstaking, she found it cathartic, which inspired her to host an ongoing series of “cutting parties” at her studio where woman-identified and nonbinary artists could come together and cut paintings—hers or theirs —in a safe, welcoming atmosphere. In addition to being a therapeutic act on its own, cutting up old paintings is a potent metaphor for breaking old patterns of behavior or cutting free of toxic relationships. Beeber’s cutting parties are a form of social sculpture that both complements her painting practice and grounds it. In today’s highly individualistic, career-focused art world, Beeber returns to the space of collectivist artisanal production to find healing for herself and others.

Beeber’s approach to art-making is also informed by the philosopher Jacques Derrida’s discussion of painting—peinture—as pointure, a French word meaning “pointing” but also “puncturing” and “stitching.” Each time an artist paints a mark, it both punctures the picture plane and helps stitch it together—all the while “pointing” back on itself. Beeber’s marks operate in precisely this way. They simultaneously rupture and unify her layers of underpainting, while at the same time calling attention to their own constructedness. Even when Beeber’s paintings contain figural elements, they are radically anti-illusionistic. The emphasis is always on her own acts of making: cutting, collaging, and painterly “stitching.” Whether large or small, there is strength and precision in every mark she makes, and nothing is ever hidden. Each decision, each moment of inspired brilliance or existential dread, is there on the surface for us to see. By turns fast and slow, rough-hewn and meticulous, her marks weave tales of patient effort and epic adventure, of self-discovery and communal healing.

About the Artist 

Paige Beeber received her BFA from Alfred University in 2015. Soon after graduation she relocated to New York City where her work has garnered her recognition through solo exhibitions at Sweet Lorraine Gallery in 2018, Arts+Leisure in 2020, and Freight+Volume in 2021. Beeber’s paintings have also been shown nationally and internationally in group exhibitions such as: Velvet Ropes, Soulland, Copenhagen in 2019 - SRISA Gallery, Florence, Italy in 2014, and the Walt Whitman Museum in 2011. Beeber has participated in the 2019 and 2020 DNA Residency as well as the Vermont Studio Center Residency where she received the VSC Merit Grant in 2016 and 2019.

See more on her website or follow her on Instagram

About the Gallery

Located on 39 Lispenard Street, Freight + Volume is dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging and established artists, and in particular work which is innovative and not afraid to take risks.

Paige Beeber's solo-show Phantom Thread is open May 5th through June 3rd at Freight + Volume on 39 Lispenard Street in New York City with an opening reception on May 5th, 6-8PM.

Anna Mikaela Ekstrand

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