Blair Vaughn-Gruler approaches the ideas of space and geometry through large-scale, monochromatic, structural paintings, which contemplate the relationship of the physical body to the painted object. Vaughn-Gruler’s images subvert rather than build upon geometry, exploring the materiality of paint and the structure of paint as it exists when applied to a surface: “My visual vocabulary includes references to structure, repetition, deconstructed geometry, and the physical qualities of the paint itself.”
In a review in Modern Dallas, Todd Camplin describes it this way: “Blair Vaughn-Gruler’s paintings are very loose with reference to hard-drawn geometry, but she paints these objects in a kind of state of decay or softening. Her backgrounds are like primordial ooze giving nutrient to her organic/geometric shapes.”
Shingle Objects and Accumulations
Her ‘Shingle Paintings and Objects’ series brings a fascination with the geometric universe into a physically dimensional reality. Oil paint on wood or cardboard, mounted on canvas or panel, “these pieces eschew pictorial imagery in favor of allowing the materials to speak on their own.” The ‘paring down’ of these pieces often results in a limited palette of neutral colors. The white, gray, and taupe have a special richness that seems to calm the nervous system for painter and viewer alike. The Shingle Paintings range in size from a diminutive 6 x 6 inches to “Water Flows Down, Divided,” a shingle painting diptych, which is 60 x 96″ in size.
The ‘Accumulation’ paintings began with Blair’s idea to create 100 small pieces using a narrow visual vocabulary that would speak to the physicality of compulsion and collection. The pieces are made from collected wood chips of various kinds, glued to small canvases and then subsumed in layers of oil paint. She says: “After I made about 20, I was feeling confined by the rules I had set up for making the ‘Accumulation’ paintings. I contemplated abandoning the idea of making 100, but ultimately decided to push forward. In that push, I discovered a fertile new vein of creativity, inspired rather than confined by the rules.”
Each little 6 x 6 x 2 inch painting is a world onto itself, where the dimensionality of the built substrate converses with the viscosity of the oil paint. Each one stands alone, yet they are all cousins if not siblings, so they chatter amongst themselves. Setting up different visual conversations, depending on which pieces are grouped together, is endlessly amusing. “In and exploration and celebration of compulsion, I am now well into the second hundred, with no end in sight!” Blair explains.
“My practice is built around process; mark making, repetition, accumulation, erasure and the viscosity of the paint itself. I’m also concerned with my physical relationship to paint, including the motions inherent in the process of mark making.
The pictorial imagery arises from the concept of subjectivity, suggesting geometry, architecture, scaffolding and ruins. This imagery can also become deconstructed into lines or marks, which emerge, repeat, and forget themselves back into the paint. Expressive (and imaginary) geometry is further explored in the built infrastructure of the Shingle Paintings. These dimensional pieces are another way I like to think about how paint glues ideas and experiences together.
The repetitive practice of laying down multiple layers of media, sometimes drawing between the layers, and repeating the procedure, makes physical the thought process itself. The tension between decipherment and embodiment informs and inspires my practice.”
She earned an MFA in Visual Art in 2010 from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BFA in Painting in 1979 from Northern Michigan University. She lives in Lamy, New Mexico and co-owns GVG Contemporary with her husband, Ernst Gruler.