John Wesley

Jessica Fredericks Gallery

In the rear of Jessica Fredericks’ semi-basement Chelsea space, there hangs—or hung, during the gallery’s John Wesley miniretrospective this winter—a modest-size painting from 1976 entitled Princess Sacajawea Crossing the Snake. It depicts, in Wesley’s never-varying technique of flat shapes, delicate black outline, and matte, chalky color, a female in a leotard or bathing suit, seen in midair from behind, doing the splits, her arms extended groundward. The background consists of five horizontal bands: pale blue sky at top, then green distant “forest” (its upper edge is ragged, hinting at faraway treetops), next pale green ground on the far side of the river, the blue river itself (presumably the Snake), and, at the bottom, pale green field again (the ragged upper edge indicating grass along the near bank).

The question that immediately arises with this picture—or any other Wesley picture—is

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