Kim Dingle’s exhibition entitled still lives at Sperone Westwater portrays a series of calamities played out by children sitting at tables, whirling off of chairs and clinking wine glasses in roistering merriment. Clown-like in depiction with disproportionally large feet and nondescript faces, the toddlers she presents are more so dolls than human children. Dingle’s newest works are less crowded than older works and by virtue of this developed space on the canvas, her concepts are more resolved. Instead of Dingle’s typical palette of blue, sepia and grey, these compositions are rendered in a sugar sweet mélange of pastel yellows, ochres, greens and blues in a fanciful layering of both thin washes and sweeping, buttery strokes of oil paint à la Wayne Thiebaud.
Dingle’s naughty dollies sit at long kitchen tables, subjects who emerge from her prototypical characters named “Fatty” and “Fudge”, or “Priss Girls”, whom she has depicted in earlier works, both in paintings and sculpture. Each child dons a pristine frock yet they are pictured drinking beverages out of wine glasses (some unidentified liquids, and some explicitly merlot-toned), toting bottles and kitchen utensils, draping themselves over (or through) chairs unabashedly displaying their child knickers, while some even lie forlornly passed out in their porridge. One cannot help but giggle at the site of such absurdity, yet the works emit an undertone of poignancy, the kind of disappointed sadness that I imagine would be provoked by a coming-of-age wrongdoing by your child, for instance stealing or drinking. This is precisely the crux in which Dingle puts her audience: straddling the emotional line of child/adult transformation and the sometimes seemingly absurd fluidity of progression and regression in relation to childhood and adulthood.
Dingle’s doll characters comment on the state of mindless behavior that human beings, perhaps (this being the operative word in this case, depending on your view of nature vs. nurture) learn as we grow into adulthood. Dingle’s characters are girls and this is comprehended by virtue of deliberate gender specific cues. Having been categorized as a feminist artist, her work is also taken as a survey of female childhood (see bio in Brooklyn Museum) and the representation of violence in relation to frivolity and the legacies thereof. In the negative space where the lack of politesse is depicted, Dingle’s works provoke the question of being raised within societal bounds and the weight it carries in social situations as a projection of self and discipline.
With the exception of Untitled (Birthday) (2007) in which a figure wearing a party hat drowns her face in a cake of comparable proportion to herself, the compositions are devoid of any sort of food things despite the table settings filled with bowls and plates. With the symbolic dominance of food deleted from these works, which is dissimilar to Dingle’s past works which feature food stuffs, the characters seem to act out a pantomime of consumption (minus the moments of splashing wine glasses). In several works, likewise with her older paintings, she pictures many of her dollies wearing chef hats, which further solidify the palpable sentiment of frivolity and clamor because they underline the notion of utter incompetency.
Dingle’s still lives aims to make her audience laugh (refer to press release) and that it does. Her paintings conjure the childhood wonder of what your dolls (or stuffed animals) do when you are gone. It also astutely reflects those certain moments within adulthood where we may all act like naughty little children (I know that a snap shot taken at one of my dinner parties wouldn’t be a dissimilar image), which makes her works successful in pinpointing a grain of psychology that is as omnipresent as it is supressed. Kim Dingle’s still lives will run through April 28th at Sperone Westwater in the Lower East Side.