New York

Ginny Casey, Swept Away, 2021, oil on canvas, 24 × 22".

Ginny Casey, Swept Away, 2021, oil on canvas, 24 × 22".

Ginny Casey

Painter Ginny Casey’s previous show at Half Gallery, in 2018, featured an assortment of household wares rendered in haunting shades of coral, cobalt, and marigold. These items—watering cans, shoes, kitchen chairs, and other things—have long been a part of the artist’s visual repertoire. While isolating during the pandemic, Casey burrowed deep into herself and into the vistas of her domestic environment, rendering the familiar wondrous, strange. The eleven oil-on-canvas works here explored the notion of “home” as a domain that is both safe and scary, a place in which life is not only lived but survived, where nature, pleasure, and death are our constant everyday companions.

It’s within this space that anxiety and comfort often form a uniquely symbiotic relationship, as we saw in the presentation’s title piece, Combing the Honey Home (all works cited, 2021). In this painting, a swarm of honeybees seems to jink around a dimly lit entrance hall in an otherwise empty dwelling. A pool of honey has puddled on the floor, while a fluffy winter jacket, rendered to resemble a hive, hangs from an ungainly coat rack. The insects are monstrous—the size of lapdogs, babies, cats, and overfed rats. These creatures are symbols of disquiet, doom, and so many dark tomorrows. I wouldn’t be surprised if their golden nectar tasted like bile or gasoline.

In two other pieces, Upward Leaning and Webbed Connection, anthropomorphic houseplants appear to be at different stages of life. In the former—an airy scene—a hearty breed of flora stretches its leafy limbs toward a nearby pitcher of water. The latter, however, is notably darker, as the potted verdure has deteriorated significantly and has become a spider’s home. Death continues its rounds in Swept Away, where a belly-up moth with wings the color of lapis lazuli has succumbed to rigor mortis. A whisk broom is ready to sweep it into a dustpan, yet humans are eerily absent from this dramatic tableau. But threads of optimism creep in here and there. Take Blind Xylophone, which transforms an ugly set of plasticky window blinds into the titular musical instrument, or Good Listener, a painting of a ruddy, clearly beloved succulent that has sprouted several ears: a quiet companion there for you at any time of day or night, always at the ready to provide silent solace.

Even though Casey created these images in the shadows of a plague and social upheaval, there were moments of radiant light: in particular, the birth of the artist’s second child. Alien Hands, the piece in the exhibition with the most pronounced human presence, depicts a pair of massive right hands stretching long, ashen digits toward the pages of an open book. The larger appendage forms a motherly protective arch, though we are not sure what the smaller hand is being guarded against. The scene is otherworldly, tender, and oddly hopeful—a picture of two hearts at the start of something beautiful, despite this awful crumbling world.