Walking through Kentuck's Museum Gallery to see Michelle Jones' exhibit is like walking through an electric jungle dreamscape. A leafy montage of unexpected color and camouflaged animals painted in vivid pinks, blues, and purples flood the senses. The contrast of theme and palette is intentionally uncomfortable at times, calling attention to the chaotic juxtaposition of nature and civilization.
"Life on the Gulf Coast is fraught with consequence. There are hurricanes, tornadoes, mold multiplying underneath floorboards, and vines pushing through walls. Foundations sink and sidewalks buckle. The land here is aggressively active in trying to keep humans at bay. What has been created feels at times unnatural and unsustainable."
Michelle Jones, a native of central Mississippi, received her BFA in painting from the University of Mississippi in 2003 and her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 2005. After a decade in Boston, she returned to the South in 2014 where she now resides in Mobile, Alabama.
Themes of chance, beauty, claustrophobia, and escape are explored in tandem with Jones’ experience of the world. The worlds Jones creates within her paintings highlight the peril of the wilds, the claustrophobia of unattended growth, but they also urge one to tumble in, to throw off caution and niceties and give in to the excesses of life without constraints.
Jones' work also explores the relationships between predators and their prey. Viewers will notice a snake tucked behind bold leaves, or an alligator emerging from foliage. These predators are not striking, but there is danger lurking behind the tranquility of a predator at rest.
The flora and fauna on the canvas came to be through Jones' method. She pours and splashes her way to find the big gestures of a landscape, then begins the meditative marks that whittle down the forms to find the details of her work. Her methods place precision and pandemonium against each other, leaning on the medium of painting to transcribe a dance between intention and loss of control. She sometimes explores a variety of media and has fun with large foam leaf shapes and giant collaged tiger heads.
"I let the paint have room to guide the painting. I come to it with intention but also with room for chance I think that is a important part of my work"
While We Were Sleeping will be on view at Kentuck Art Center in Downtown Northport until May 1, 2022. We encourage you to see this show in person! Interested in purchasing a piece from the show? Call Kentuck at 205-758-1257 or email email@example.com for more photos and purchasing information. Please click on an image for a closer look.