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"Sharpie, Coffee, Watermelon, Beer" by Mariel Capanna
The exhibition titled “Left” at Gross McCleaf Gallery from January 4-27, 2017 in Philadelphia displayed a series of oil paintings by Mariel Capanna. It was a confident group of works that encompassed the American experience, specifically utilizing imagery from the 1980’s and 90’s. The work “Sharpie, Coffee, Watermelon, Beer” instantly stole my attention in the room full of Capanna’s paintings. While the piece was not aesthetically my favorite within the group, the work evoked an emotion I couldn’t deny. A textured field of gray with small splotches of nearly-rectangular green provide a bird’s eye-view as the base for the work. This field is then interrupted with flat objects such as a white boombox, one black nike shoe, a watermelon and many more that disrupt the aerial view causing the painted images to appear collaged. The context for the work is not brought about by the objects but rather the top inch and half of the painting. This portion of the work has a darker green field on the left which then meets a dark black-grey passage containing the rear of a light-blue police car and a red “stop” sign that bleeds off the top right. What appears like the most irrelevant part of the painting due to its location becomes the most fascinating. The cropping of these top regions of color and the depiction of transportation related objects locates the painting within the typical American neighborhood street. Green becomes a stand-in for grass yards defining the place where driveways meet the road. As someone who grew up in a stereotypical suburban neighborhood in the 90’s all the random objects that fill the work become a stand-in for memories and experiences. The Kraft Parmesan Cheese container that sits on the left side of the painting just high of the center evokes memories of spaghetti dinners from my childhood. It’s Capanna’s distinct choice to depict a green container with yellow lid and limited text that places the work in the past. Other objects intensify this feeling of the 80’s and 90’s, such as a large rectangular boom box, cropped cola cup, and unisex tank tops. These articles could easily be assumed to be random and meaningless but it is the bizarreness of the items and their simplistic specificity which cause meaning to re-enter the objects. Capanna’s work is an exciting investigation into reframing the American experience and the normalcy of the everyday through painting.