A GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT
I do not think I am alone in thinking Shelley Reed has “made it.” I admire her, look up to her and respect her work. She makes no secret of how hard she works or how serious she is, but she is also approachable, generous and kind. She has had an impressive trajectory in the last 10
years since winning the Maud Morgan Prize for painting in 2005. Reed is currently represented by the Sears-Peyton and Danese/Corey galleries in New York City, and her work has recently been on view at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Wyoming, the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina and The Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois.
I was first introduced to Reed’s work by friends who knew that I have a particular fascination for artists who work with animals in unique and surprising ways. When I visited her studio at Westinghouse Lofts to see her work in progress, the first thing I noticed was that her paintings barely fit into her working space. Next, I viewed her show at Danese/Corey Gallery, where Reed’s sprawling canvases breathed and came to life with the narrative literally running the length of the spacious gallery walls. Then I saw her work in “Fertile Solitude” at the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, where two panels were installed at 90-degree angles. In that show, Reed literally and figuratively turned a corner by creating an installation that allowed the viewer to enter into, and be surrounded by, the work.
Reed’s current show at the Fitchburg Art Museum is the culmination of many years of dedicated studio practice. “A Curious Nature” debuts her proficiency with works on paper and her focus on monumental pieces. Until recently, Reed’s black-and-white works on canvas have featured cinematic narratives of animal allegories. New works on paper, in abstract modular sections, are assembled to form gigantic studies of single, isolated subjects. It is the best installation of her work to date. “For this show, our hope was to give each painting enough space for viewers to enjoy its sheer beauty and scale,” said curator Lisa Crossman. “The ambiguity that Reed embraces in her paintings encourages visitors to contemplate her fabricated scenes – composed of fragments borrowed from historical paintings – as a means to reflect on the ‘curious nature’ of our world anew.”