December 1989

Laura Lasworth
Asher Faure

  Laura Lasworth, Shaker Still Life, 1989, oil on board, 48½"x60" 

Laura Lasworth, Shaker Still Life, 1989, oil on board, 48½"x60" 

Each of the nine meticulous paintings in this show is of a virtually uninhabited room with a missing fourth wall.  Several of these interiors are bisected by lines showing where the planes of the rooms’ walls meet.  Each painting’s perspective is slightly but elegantly distorted, as though the depicted room were made of paper and had been folded along that line.  The intentionally stilted look of Lasworth’s meditative interiors refers to pre-Renaissance religious painting and Christian thought.  The works’ titles cite the crazed self-styled Christian mystic Hazel Motes (who appears in Flannery O’Conner’s novel, Wise Blood), St. Theresa, the religious sect known as the Shakers, and the writer/monk Thomas Merton.  The items that silently populate Lasworth’s rooms - globes, tablets, scrolls, musical instruments, ribbons, lamps, white cloths, books, flowers, and mirrors - are a roll call of symbols from Christian art.  Immaculate, gracefully austere and lit just so, these exposed rooms and their carefully chosen contents are free-floating, faintly gleaming cubes exuding the rarified air of transcendence-as-fait-accompli, mostly through images of pristine lightness and loveliness.

Two small paintings here, Verse of Pythagoras and Hats of the Pharisees, both 1988, are comparable to dollhouse interiors in term sof size.  But their temperament, expressed throughout the show, is never playful or amusing, but thoughtful and cool; it carries the fragrance of reverence, if not its content.  The biggest difference between Lasworth’s work and the religious material it makes reference to is that spirituality is reflected in her paintings, without being asserted, lived, dissected, or questioned.  Mysterious contemporary symbols - a sandwich with a bite taken out of it, a goldfish in a glass measuring cup, a pair of spectacles - appear among the flowering branches and birds, and these objects give the work a nudge toward the modern.  But Lasworth’s paintings don’t attempt to reconcile past belief systems with present ones.  Instead, they gently filter the aura of one through the other, communicating the flavor of lives arranged around an airy faith, the specifics of which are left undiscussed.

Elements crop up in nearly all the paintings that are so small they look as if they were rendered with a brush that had three hairs in it.  Even in the largest painting here, Thomas Merton Reading Room, 1988, a lotus floating in a bowl of water is no bigger than the tip of an adults thumb.  All the objects depicted are both stylized and painstakingly accurate.  Lasworth’s technique is scrupulous, and the paintings are quite pleasurable to look at, both because of the artist’s skill and because they are full of a becalmed, soothing feeling.  Pale ascetic light fills these blue-gray interiors like a chord sung by a choir might fill a listener’s head: a temporary illumination of a dark little room.

- Amy Gerstler