Suzanne Vincent

Gallery Naga

In Suzanne Vincent’s recent exhibition, meticulous detail lends her familiar portraits and still lifes an eerie sense of metaphysical hyperreality. In a self-portrait, displayed in an antique-looking frame, entitled The Legend of St. Lucy I Can do it with my eyes Shut, 1990, Vincent portrays herself in a meditative pose, with hair cropped short in a monklike manner. As legend has it, St. Lucy plucked out her eyes in an act of martyrdom and she is often represented offering them in a dish. Here a heart-shaped amulet around the artist’s neck contains her open eye.

Vincent’s still lifes are collections of oddities painted with a sharp-focus precision reminiscent of Van Eyck. In Articulation, 1988, she displays the arabeque forms of a monkey skeleton intertwined with elegant red brocade drapery. Like all of Vincent’s creations, the image is both attractive and repulsive. The egg-and-dart frame painted in gold leaf evokes the past, while the magic realism and kitschy delivery feel more contemporary.

Memento Mori, 1988, is a complex parody of Renaissance or academic Symbolism. Based on a skull the artist placed in a box the nine small monochromatic brown images against black drops, are framed together in a gold egg-and-dart display panel. The artfully draped setting provides a counterpoint to the starkness of the death’s-heads.

Perhaps the most startling arrangement, Fossils for Amateurs, 1989, assembles a model “visible eye” of the sort used for medical demonstrations, a plaster statuette of the Infant of Prague (commonly sighted in Boston’s North End), an ox skull crowned with a flowerpot, and two books on art. The work’s title is taken from one of the two depicted volumes, and the objects are displayed against a backdrop of a map of the world. Like the best Giorgio de Chirico paintings, this image is not meant to answer questions or to tell stories, instead it dips below the surface and affects us on a profounder level.

In this exhibition Vincent turns away from her previous portraits of punks in leather and lace framed in black studded leather. Painted with tiny brushes and then sanded, Vincent’s work is as meticulous as ever, but now it is more introverted and graceful. She has moved away from her fascination with outer appearances to concentrate on a metaphysic that depends on the interrelationship of objects.

Francine A. Koslow