Artwork > Aurea Nova 2023

Swaying between copious abundance and penultimate fragility, Michelle Wasson’s return to oil is possessed of the grace, lyricism, and underlying attentiveness of an ice skater. Each bouquet erupting across their respective picture planes swoons with hot flashy, serpentine seduction toward inevitable ends, proceeding in equal measure from some of the most ancient fertility symbologies as well as traditions of memento mori. In other words, Wasson’s latest paintings intimate that all along her material and perceptual investigations have been concerned with what can be held, for how long a term or period, and the ontological nature of the vessel tasked with holding—as well as its eschatological shadow of eventual release.

More ecstatic ‘derangement’ than conventional flower ‘arrangement,’ Wasson’s canvases pulse with gathering (remembering, citing, organizing) and dispersal (letting loose, pretty crying followed by the ugly crying crucial to any effort at letting go). The painter has gathered those hesperidic rosebuds while ye may, crossbreeding the erotic, the critical, and the quantum for mystifying new blooms. Sidling alongside Redon, Stettheimer, O’Keeffe, as well as Ross Bleckner’s funereal hot houses, the even hotter wilds of Jennifer Packer’s botanical still lives, the prim micro-macro foliages of Darren Waterston, and the artist’s former mentor Sabina Ott’s roses, each bouquet is a wise woman’s knowing trot through the canon, searching out its darker damper corners wherein visions of all-at-once budding, blooming, wilting, departing might ruminate.

In an era marked by watershed exhibitions like Karma’s 2020 ‘(Nothing but) Flowers,’ and the ‘touch grass’/‘nature is healing’ cultural turn during recent pandemic years, Wasson’s flowers that flow toward total abstraction are situated within a mycelium network that confronts the poetic, the affective, and the deathly implications of radically shifting human/non-human ecologies. Erected against utter collapse is a femme-fleur fantasy wherein the known, the crone, and the prone, along with other seemingly apprehended quantities are found to blur into uncertain haze.-Matt Morris

Matt Morris on Aurea Nova