Fran Shalom: Duck/Rabbit

January 9, 2023

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On View October 2, 2022 - January 8, 2023

Fran Shalom is an abstract painter whose playful shapes and bright, cartoony colors reveal a pop sensibility. Her elemental forms suggesting bodies or objects seem to advance and recede at the same time, creating a push and pull between foreground and background. With their rounded corners, these ebullient forms resemble inflatables that expand to fill the existing spaces, often pushing up against the edges of the panels and creating spatial tension.

A skilled colorist, Shalom works intuitively without preconceived plans, and improvises as she develops each painting. Inspired by the Zen saying, “Not knowing is most intimate,” she explains its significance:

It suggests approaching something with open-minded and whole-hearted curiosity. I try to begin my paintings in this way, with a willingness to be present with uncertainty, and with the confidence that the process will result in work that both satisfies and inspires.

The viewer who brings this same kind of open-mindedness to the paintings may experience them in multiple ways. Just as we see clouds that resemble people and objects, we instinctively find similar forms in the paintings. And the more we look, the more they morph and change before our eyes.

Shalom has titled her exhibition after a well-known optical illusion in which either a rabbit or a duck can be seen, depending on the viewer’s perception. By referencing this ambiguous image, she reminds us that even when an image stays the same, our understanding of it may change with increased looking. Once we are able to see both animals, it becomes easy to shift our perception back and forth from rabbit to duck and back again—an activity that occurs only in our brains.

This reversible figure is a good reminder that our relationship to visual objects is dynamic and changeable. The shapes in Shalom’s paintings may appear to us as objects set against a background, but we can just as easily interpret them as openings into deeper space. While we may not find an actual rabbit or duck in these paintings, if we allow our perceptions to shift, we will see so much more.

Mary Birmingham, Curator

Learn More About This Exhibition

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