Jolly Speed’s Dark Imagination Paintings –

Figures in Jolly Speed’s paintings are often intertwined, swaying and swaying with sullen faces as they grapple in compositions tinged with the threats of disaster. The artist very obsessively classifies disaster scenes, both natural and man-made. keep folders of evidence against humanity for all of our crimes; She even once showed me a set of thimble-like shapes that she referred to as tips for decommissioned nuclear warheads. Scanning her huge paintings confirms our common fears and anticipates our mistakes.

Although she has been plagued by night terrors from a young age (she says her first memory is a nightmare in which she was shot in the head and died), Spade sees no direct connection between her dreams and the sometimes dark moods of her paintings. “I’m sure I would have been able to see the downturn at any time, they would have said, ‘Oh, that obviously has to do with that. “But I think it is because I have such an active imagination,” she told me.

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I visited Speed’s home and studio in Marfa, Texas, three times last spring after seeing her work on Instagram. Many artists have Instagram accounts, of course, and show off their steps from the start, as does Speed. But her stern, almost daily posts along with the music – a little Lucinda Williams here, a little Patti Smith there – made for a unique and intriguing composition that deepened

Born in Chicago in 1951, Speed ​​lived in Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Kentucky, California, and Nova Scotia before moving to Texas—first to Austin and then to Marfa in 2006. “My first professional ambition was to become a caveman; Spade: “My second choice was a pirate.” “Then it came to my mind that I would continue to paint. I come from a family that was not artistic at all. If you want something, you make it yourself.”

Speed ​​entered the Rhode Island School of Design in 1969 but quickly discovered that wasn’t what she was hoping for. “They were going a completely different path,” she said. “Frank Stella and Andy Warhol were gods. Any representational or non-satiric painter was the devil. Artists were “giving up” painting in droves. It was an issue of wrong place, wrong time. After that, I taught myself from books and museums.”

Some of Speed’s work It has apparently been pulled from recent headlines. in Sperm rights (2019), a skeleton of a woman, still wearing pink stockings, the remains of a pink blouse and a hair bow, captured by three male hands, one of whom broke her left arm. swirling around starry nightThe constellation is like thousands of sperm invading the skeletal remains amidst the fierce resistance of the dry bones.

A dark-skinned woman in a red blouse and a dreamy expression holds the severed head of a bearded man while another woman looks through the window.

Jolly Speed: Tenderness and tenderness2011, oil on board, 24″ x 20″.

Courtesy Julie Speed

Other panels bear signs of destruction of biblical proportions. severed head (Tenderness and tenderness2011), hurricanes that threaten children (flying child2012), and armadas in deadly combat (fruit bowl2009-2010) are all obsessive paintings, albeit with a dose of endearing gallows humor.

Speed ​​co-owns Marfa with her husband, Fran Christina, who was a former member of the blues band The Fabulous Thunderbirds (and now an “aging rock god,” according to Speed). Her studio is located in the former prison in old Fort DA Russell, and the house that Christina built is just a few feet from the entrance to the Chinati Foundation.

From the front porch, Speed ​​has an unobstructed view of Donald Judd 15 Untitled Works in Concrete, often walking down the aisle around the sculptures, noting the sun and the Milky Way in the southwest sky. Her many paintings of the sky include dark skies (2018), which was part of the MacDonald Observatory’s project to reduce light pollution around the area known as Big Bend. The monochromatic collage is dominated by a star-studded sky, revealing a curtain mounted on the back. Four portraits – one dressed in papal robes, the others also ecclesiastical in appearance – take in the view, seemingly on edge.

While visiting her home, accompanied by Negronis and tequila, Speed ​​told a childhood story about researching a 1950s-era Time-Life book called The world’s great religions, One of the many sources of her fascination with the horror. One of the images that caught her eye was that of guilty men being burned at the stake. At about the same time, she was hearing her father discuss layoffs at the Alcoa aluminum plant where he worked. She equated it with being burned at the stake, and for a while she feared that her father would suffer the same smoldering fate. Spade also talked about painting her childhood home black and neighbors speculating that her mother might be a witch, adding to her fears of being burned.

Antique engraving of a figure in the robes of a saint and a squid for a head, with blue eyes and a spiky crest.  At the bottom there is a text in French that says Religieux de L'ordre de Christ

Jolly Speed: To the sea * Protection from: * Drowning, pneumonia and nostalgiafrom “A Purgatory of Nuns” series, 2019, collage and gouache, 8″ x 6″.

Courtesy Julie Speed

Speed ​​Series 2019 nuns cleanserThe mixed-media collages published together as a book by the artist offer a dose of clever revenge. As a child, Speed’s friends teased her, saying that she would end up in Purgatory, because she did not participate in the sacrament of baptism. She also despised the Sisters of Mercy who tortured her left-handed husband as a boy by hitting him on his left hand (which is considered the hand of Satan).

nuns cleanser Features modified gouache and collage engravings from an 18th century guide to Catholic denominations that Spade considers a kind of bird guide for saints. In the series, 42 works in total, her brush and scalpel give the Saints brutal twists. Work titled To the sea * Protection from: * Drowning, pneumonia and nostalgia A nun is depicted with a blue-eyed squid for a head. Migraine *protection from* hangover, pop-up tests, plaques Two large woodpeckers with their beaks appear striking a nun’s head.

Other such tales are early Illustrations of death and carnage in Spade’s paintings. cry wolf, from 2021, full of betrayal, enslavement, murder, and mystery in its treatment of the story of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. As the story goes, Rhea bore Silvia the two brothers, who were begotten by Mars, the god of war, against the vow of Vestal’s virginity imposed on her by her uncle Amulius, who was bent on remaining king and preventing claimants to his throne. . Amulius ordered the boys to drown, but their basin floated down the river and settled in a fig tree, where they were suckled by a wolf and a woodpecker. (Romulus eventually built a wall around the city he founded on the Tiber River and killed Remus when he tried to overcome the wall.)

In Speed’s painting of the two brothers, one sits, while the other stands, checking out a snarling wolf, its fangs flickering amid a growl as it twists its body to face the siblings. The seated brother stares at the wolf, reaching to feed his nipples, while the other raises his tail for further scrutiny. They are like blind mice, looking for an unfamiliar beast to determine its shape.

On a blank background, a collage of a snarling wolf and two boys, one sitting and stretching its nipples while the other holds its tail.

Jolly Speed: cry wolf2022, gouache and collage, 40 x 60 in.

Courtesy Julie Speed

cry wolfWith vintage Japanese woodblock prints and red paint, it reveals a lot that applies to Speed ​​photos. The eyes of the two brothers, focused on the laser, lead to the composition, indicating associations and relationships between shapes, objects, and subjects. in cry wolf Woodblock prints depict scenes of battle and an introduction to the war. The subtle weight of chaos and calmness plays out in the siblings’ outfits elsewhere on the 2022 board double crossSpeed ​​is the first in a series of other assassin brothers as reserve citizens of humanity. In this composition, reflected in an inverted sleeve, holding a knife, the swordsman leans back in almost the same way, reflecting the carnage of war.

The devices Speed ​​uses in her paintings—red spheres, three-eye figures, and crooked numbers—are part of a composition system that also includes gestures by Kazimir Malevich. Speed ​​was attracted to Malevich black square Running early, he asked, “What’s that thing that catches you in the board?” In her own notes, she boils down to the basic math that aligns at specific points in a composition and makes it resonate: her version of sacred geometry.

A chaotic arrangement of jigsaw puzzles and diagrams of a skull, shark, and other image, on the wall above a table filled with containers of paintbrushes, art supplies, and a Texas insect book.

A view inside the Julie Speed ​​studio in Marfa, Texas.

Courtesy Julie Speed

Over the years, I learned to arrange basic geometric shapes on a triangle, a practice that continued (sometimes for weeks at a time to draw), until the composition “clicked” into place. A lot of red develops in the Speed ​​boards from using the red balls that you pick up and place over and over on a triangular surface until the formation is leveled. Become items in panels like cry wolfor gatherings like nebula (2007).

Another notable element of Speed’s work – the three-eyed figures – breaks down assumptions about what we perceive versus what actually exists. This technique is familiar to students who are taught to look at the subject more than the paper, to see what is really there rather than making assumptions about something, be it an eye, a mouth, or a vase.

And part of the layered puzzle of the Speed ​​boards entails their lyrical and allegorical depiction, a universal icon of images and symbols that unlocks new stories with every look. We see cautionary tales retold: double crossWith Cain and Abel for example and in the same series, And his angels are with himwhere we are thrust into a storm as gods and demons weigh the scales between good and evil, with red auras and red-headed shoes adding an ecclesiastical element.

There is a kinship between the Speed ​​paintings and those of Hieronymus Bosch, the Surrealists, and Dadaists. But her work lives on in its own realm, where we can point out absurd convergences and put aside the laws of physics and nature while the agony builds up. Viewers find themselves in Speed’s private garden of the human curse as her bright and dark imagination delivers the long-awaited result.

Christopher Bly He is curator of the Houston Museum of African American Culture. He is also an artist whose solo exhibition “SpLaVCe Ship” was shown at the Barry Whistler Gallery in Dallas, from September 10 to October. 15th.

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