September 8 – December 9, 2012
This fall, a selection of abstract paintings, collages, and drawings by the late Linda Adair Day will be exhibited in the Wesley G. Hampton Gallery at the University Art Museum. Throughout her career, Day’s practice fluctuated from representational to nonobjective abstraction, although she was consistently concerned with symbolic language and the structure of “things unseen,” whether thought or memory.
Art historian Meyer Schapiro, among others, has observed that for abstract painters, elementary shapes have a “physiognomy.” Simple visual forms are perceived to be live and expressive. They convey feelings, emotions, and intentions. In the artworks of Linda Day, such basic shapes as the stripe, square, oval, and arc enliven and provide visual syntax and cadence to compositions that were often consciously scaled to the dimensions and proportions of the human body.
Day frequently used terms such as “pulse,” “beat,” and “breath” to describe the rhythmic oscillations of color and shape through which she endeavored to foster within viewers a meditative and advanced state of focused perception. Day was piqued by a passage in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay Eye and Mind (1964) where the philosopher advocates a literal interpretation of the word “inspiration,” which should be thought of simply as the action of drawing breath into the body. He goes on to reflect:
There really is inspiration and expiration of Being, respiration in Being, action and passion so slightly discernible that it becomes impossible to distinguish between who sees and who is seen, who paints and what is painted
When she was making art, Day derived pleasure by immersing herself in such an embodied state of inspiration and seeking convergence with the external visual, tactile, and auditory stimulation of her environs, whatever the source—be it luminous acrylic gel medium tinted with pigment, the “sensual give” of stretched canvas, jazz emanating from a nearby radio, or even street noise. It is in this sense that Day’s identification of a “good day in the studio” being one in which she was “swimming in paint” can perhaps be best understood.