Connecticut Art Scene Blog Spot
posted by Hank Hoffman
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

There is a strategy of seduction, smuggling in thought-provoking content with a lushness of presentation. The show offers up, in particular, some exceptional painting work. The imagery and execution by Mia Brownell is always striking. Brownell alludes to the techniques of old masters while investigating issues like the genetic modification of the food supply. With Brownell's paintings, still life raises the question of is it "still life" when we intervene in the genetic code and then ingest the fruits of our Frankensteinian experiments. Her subject matter isn't so much posing a critique as a query: Where is this going?

Brownell's large painting "Double Double" features her recurring motif of clusters of grapes and vines with pears on a black background. The grape clusters and threaded through the composition in imitation of the DNA double helix. With a couple of smaller works, "Still Life with Cock (Freud)" and "Still Life with Cock (Currin)," she playfully but pointedly skewers sexist tropes in the art world (referencing Lucian Freud and John Currin). In these two paintings, Brownell's clusters of grapes and vines are the setting for plucked and provocatively posed roosters (hence the double entendre "cocks" of the titles), splayed almost pornographically.

There is intellectual food to feast on in Brownell's paintings. But the dessert, for me, is the main course. She's an incredible painter (and I love painting as a medium). In "Double Double," Brownell has attended with loving brush caress to each of the hundreds of grapes. Lush—or luscious—doesn't begin to describe them. Just as compelling is the lighting, which seems to come from somewhere low in the center of the background. It gathers in the translucent fruits, caressing their curves.