FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Eyes of Lora Shelley

Lora Shelley’s nudes, like Lucien Freud’s, are more than nude, they are naked. Her subjects are often caught in Maurice Sendack-like fairy-tale-fun-macabre dreams

“It makes a lot of sense to me,” says Lora Shelley of the ‘Freud meets Sendack’ comparison. “I admire these qualities when they are combined in other artists work (including these two). There is something that really gets me about thinking something is scary and funny at the same time. It’s a very exciting feeling.”

She is, according to her father, a descendent of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

“My father has told me that Percy is my great great (I’m not sure how many greats) uncle,” says Shelley. “I questioned him more about it recently but he doesn’t have more information other than that.”

Her subjects, so beautiful, are often irredeemably spooky. Muscular bodies in pain. Virtually all eyes are closed, all hands suggestively large.

“This is a way of humanizing the female form, instead of her being seen as the object. Her big hands are capable but they are at rest. Something dark under the surface of things,” says Shelley.

But not always. For instance, “The Night Visit” is the anti-spook (“a beautiful dream dropped by my window”), an affirmative answer to Henri Fuseli’s “The Nightmare.” Or “Holding On,” in which a girl embraces the blue womb of an Angel’s wings. Or “Consolation,” in which a suffering woman is embraced by one of the few of Shelley’s subjects who actually looks at the viewer, as if asking “What to do? What to say? How to speak hope to unspeakable pain?”

Shelley is an admirer of other artists.

“My artist friends are a big influence on me. Artists from the past I look at include Kathe Kollwitz, Gauguin, Hundertwasser, Emil Nolde, Edvard Munch, Klimt and Bonnard. I also like a lot of self-taught work, it can be so expressive with such honesty and no pretensions,” says Shelley.

But where is this coming from, this energy blast of life that forces even her subjects’ eyes closed, these paint-stories that compel the viewer to look closer, deeper, again and again, like a favorite novel that is no longer a book but a dream in book form, a shape whose solidity in the “real world” is all that prevents the reader from diving in?

“Everywhere,” says Shelley. “You’d be surprised. I look inside and out — including books, movies, songs, experiences, a memory or an event, a dream — there are so many sources.”

No. Not enough. Not enough to explain characters larger than the canvases they, one imagines, can easily step out of. Like literary characters. Like Madame Bovary or Holden Caulfield, larger than the works in which they were born.

One imagines Percy or Mary bursting from the DNA in which they had lain in wait for the perfect hand to make visual the WORD.

“I have read Frankenstein and of course it really appeals to me, I wish I could say I knew more of her work or of Percy’s. I will though,” says Shelley of great great great (add or take a great or two according to your intuition) Uncle Percy.

What’s in a name? This name synonymous with Gothic (Mary) and Romantic (Percy) visions like the one in my living room, the one my wife just HAD TO HAVE. I gave a poetry reading at the Rosendale Cafe, Rosendale, NY, in August, 2001, as part of the Woodstock Poetry Festival. “How’d I do?” I asked my wife. “What? I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.”

She was looking. At a painting by Lora Shelley. Which we ended up buying on the installment plan, our first original work. I don’t even know the title of this paint-story depicting a young girl in a green dress in a very old room. She stands before a mirror, but does not look into it, does not admire herself like I admire her daily when I step away from the machine that connects me to the Great World “out there” to study her tiny space and wonder if the Great World is actually smaller than her mind and what’s inside it.

Like most of the Shelley girls and women, her eyes are closed. Makes perfect sense to me now, for SHE knows what she looks like. But what thought so intense to grip this girl forever, and call me repeatedly from my desk to get up and watch her not-watching?

It’s like that with so many of Lora Shelley’s women:

Erika;””Medea;” “Diner Series VI;” “Ioana;” “Louisiana” absently strumming her guitar (like Percy Shelley’s “Constantia Singing” but not singing).

All of these women lost in thought, unimpressed (or unconvinced?) of their own beauty even while “Testing the Water,” or “Going For a Ride,” or “Thinking Out Loud,” or simply looking out the window, like “Kathy” (who is not really “looking” for even her eyes are nearly closed to the world outside). Or pursuing a “Labor of Love” with one eye looking away from or perhaps toward labor, love, the viewer. Or “looking” into a “Bathroom Mirror,” with eyes shut, like the others.

Wide eye-lids, oversized eyelids creating the impression of the “empty” sockets of Greek Statues.

So many looking away, or miming the motions of looking, but with eyes shut, impervious to our importunate intrusions. As if in rebellion against seeing; rebellion against the World; rebellion against THE WORK itself, where, created, they must live the function of form, the artist’s artifice. Quite Platonic actually, quite Shelleyan (the poet was after all, a scholar/translator of Plato), these women, each as stunning and unapproachable as “Mont Blanc,” impatient to rid themselves of genius, the creative imperative that yanked them from nothingness against their will and placed them in canvas-worlds of form and beauty. Impatient to be lost in profundity. To escape art’s shapes, colors, shadows, and return to the peace and eternity of pure thought.

To misquote and paraphrase Norman Mailer’s assertion about William Burroughs, “Lora Shelley is the one artist working today who might conceivably be possessed by genius.”

ADAM ENGEL can be reached at bartleby.samsa@verizon.net

Lora Shelley has had many exhibits in the New York area and beyond. She “can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing, painting or doing some type of artwork even as a small child.” Her work can be seen on her website, www.lorashelley.com

 

More articles by:

Adam Engel is editor of bluddlefilth.org. Submit your soul to bluddlefilth@yahoo.com. Human units, both foreign and domestic, are encouraged to send text, video, graphic, and audio art(ifacts), so long as they’re bluddlefilthy and from The Depths.

August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under
Mike Garrity
Emperor Trump Loses Again in the Northern Rockies in Big Win for Bull Trout, Rivers and the ESA
Alex Lawson
34 Attorneys General Call to Bust Gilead’s Pharma Monopoly on COVID Treatment Remdesivir
August 10, 2020
Gerald Sussman
Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem
Vijay Prashad – Érika Ortega Sanoja
How the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela
Daniel Warner
Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes
Mike Hastie
The Police Force Stampede in Portland on August 8, 2020 
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Executive Orders: EOs as PR and FUs
Rev. William Alberts
Cognitive Without Conscience
David Altheide
Politicizing Fear Through the News Media
F. Douglas Stephenson
Is Big Pharma More Interested in Profiteering Than Protecting Us From Coronavirus?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Money Plague
Howard Lisnoff
Revolutionaries Living in a System of Growing Fascism
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump is Defeating Himself
Lynnette Grey Bull
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Human Rights Emergency is Not a Photo-Op for Ivanka Trump
Victor Grossman
Some Come, Others Go
Binoy Kampmark
Death From the Sky: Hiroshima and Normalised Atrocities
The Stop Golden Rice Network
Why We Oppose Golden Rice
Michael D. Knox
After Nagasaki, the U.S. Did Not Choose Peace
Elliot Sperber
A Tomos 
Weekend Edition
August 07, 2020
Friday - Sunday
John Davis
The COVID Interregnum
Louis Yako
20 Postcard Notes From Iraq: With Love in the Age of COVID-19
Patrick Cockburn
War and Pandemic Journalism: the Truth Can Disappear Fast
Eve Ottenberg
Fixing the COVID Numbers
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Every Which Way to Lose
Paul Street
Trump is Not Conceding: This is Happening Here
Robert Hunziker
The World on Fire
Rob Urie
Neoliberal Centrists and the American Left
John Laforge
USAF Vet Could Face ‘20 Days for 20 Bombs’ for Protest Against US H-Bombs Stationed in Germany
Andrew Levine
Clyburn’s Complaint
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail