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An LA Visual Artist Exercises Empathy Within Nature

In 'Gentle Existential,' artist Michelle Blade finds clarity in the urban existence by removing herself to the natural world.

Diana Shi

Diana Shi

Cherry Blossom Rain. All images courtesy the artist and Brilliant Champions Gallery

A miniature pack of humans entangles itself within tree limbs while another striding, ancestral form triples into three translucent figures. The natural world—or at least a ephemeral version of it—serves as respite for humans in Michelle Blade’s fleshed-out paintings and primitive sculptures. The visual artist, who hails from Los Angeles, collects her works for Gentle Existential, a solo show this fall which meditates on themes of the artist’s self-possession, the human psyche, and the significance of nature despite an urban world. 

Clearly drawing from natural history in her stripped-down paintings of homo sapiens, the artist deftly paints backgrounds in earthy grays and washed-out neutrals. The result is a series of paintings with plenty of depth and no shortage of bawdiness. Her images of bare feet treading across stone and reverent plantlife are both commanding motifs, in part due to their natural-world appeal.

Sovereign Modern Girl

In a statement, the artist shares the fact that her ideas behind the exhibit Gentle Existential, stemmed from a dream in which her psyche and heart diverged. She describes the experience: “On the sidewalk beats my heart, it is floating above my body and I am watching both, as if they were pedestrians. I watch my suspended heart go for a walk with my body, following beneath it, sliding along as if on a moving sidewalk. While my heart continues to beat rhythmically through the city it moves out of my line of vision.”

Multiplicity and Time Travel

In previous works, Blade has veered toward the classic Romantic style, describing the practice of her art as focusing on the “communal.” Her current show moves away from the tangible visuals of landscapes and more focused on the symbolic. In an interview with her current New York gallery, Brilliant Champions, the artist describes this shift in aesthetic: “For the work within Gentle Existential I wanted to take a different approach and create a body of work inspired by the empath, a person who soaks up the emotional environment around them and internalizes it. At this point in my practice it feels natural and necessary to weave in personal symbolic elements after I have been working with themes of the [Romantic Era].”

Song of Self, set of ceramic bells

Up and Down

Flowering

The Los Angeles Coyote

All the Lovers

Why Can't I Touch It? Mirroring

Gentle Existential is open for public viewing beginning September 15 and exhibits until October 6, 2016 at Brilliants Champions Gallery in Brooklyn. See more from Michelle Blade at the gallery’s website, here.

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