“I’m interested in the points where life touches down,” says artist Dawn Breeze. “Here’s a life and here’s a death, and when something big like that happens, it turns you inside out. My work celebrates that. This show is about recognizing the continuum of life; accepting the constant transformation, the constant motion, that no moment will be the same as the last, and that there is no finality.”
In 2008 two events forever transformed Breeze’s life and work, the birth of her first child and the death of her sister. Her response, to process each as if they were equally beautiful, pushed her art into new territory. Known primarily for her abstract landscape paintings, Breeze began venturing beyond canvas, experimenting with sculpture, filmmaking, performance art, and photography. “Finding Joy,” a selection of that work, including paintings, photography and the show-stopping installation Shrine of Summer Shells, is on exhibit through September 12 at Deffebach Gallery in Hudson.
Shrine, made up of a bureau, along with clothing and seashells that once belonged to her sister, is, in Breeze’s words, a monument to “the beautiful shells my sister left behind. Her clothing collection is in itself a beautiful body of art. Amassed during her life, each piece holds stories, memories, smells, and visual clues into her radiant spirit.” The flat-out prettiness of the dresses bursting from the bureau—as if escaping confinement—can be enjoyed equally, with or without the weighty backstory. The paintings are similarly bright, airy, and exuberant. Nothing is too literal; something is always being obscured or overtaken by something else—abstract flowers, greenery, and mile markers along the highway peek out from behind a layer of snow.
“If we think about the metaphor of flowers, we can sometimes believe they’re only beautiful in full bloom,” says Breeze. “I’m not interested in cut flowers that last for just a minute. I’m interested in the challenge of finding beauty in all of it.”
Wendy McDaris, director of Deffebach Gallery, counts the show among her all-time favorites. “I’ve had people cross the street from the other side, they are just…lured,” she says. “The implication of those clothes cascading out of those drawers is so mysterious because first, clothes can’t do things like that by themselves, but also, quite obviously they’ve been vacated—it’s an allusion to the ultimate transformation.”
Breeze describes her process as being intentionally unplanned. As a painter, she does little if any underdrawing, as a sculptor she has nothing fabricated, preferring to feel pieces out as she goes. “They are poetic puzzles,” she says, “all very emotive.” Rather than evolving from blueprint to build, Breeze says her installations come to her as fleeting visions. “They are a way of me seeing my emotional response to something. When I started making them, I tried not to hesitate—I had to move really quickly, because how do you rationalize traipsing out to the middle of nowhere to build a giant sculpture out of dresses?” The piece she refers to, Free Now, an environmental sculpture, was erected on a hill surrounded by farmland near her home in Germantown. Seemingly, hundreds of dresses climbed a 20-foot ladder to the sky. “As soon as I start to think, the fear becomes stronger and starts to become an editor. If I think about any idea too much, it dilutes itself,” says Breeze.
“Finding Joy” runs through September 12 at Deffebach Gallery, 135 Warren Street in Hudson. A reception for the artist will be held on September 4 from 4:30 to 7:30pm. (518) 828-2535. Portfolio: www.dawnbreezepaintings.com.
- Free Now, an environmental sculpture by Dawn Breeze from 2009.