Illustration for article titled A Painter’s Dreams Go Up In Smokeem/em

Brandi Twilley, “Rainy Night” (2017), oil on canvas, 46 x 64 inches (all images courtesy Sargent’s Daughters)


Brandi Twilley is understandably haunted by her childhood, which included her home burning to the ground in 1999, when she was sixteen. A year ago, she had an exhibition of ten paintings of her living room, all recreated from Polaroid photos, Internet searches, and memory, which I reviewed here.

In her second exhibition, Brandi Twilley: Where The Fire Started, at Sargent’s Daughters (July 12 — August 18, 2017), the artist returns to the subject of her ravaged house, this time her bedroom, and to library books on Picasso and Titian that she had borrowed just before the fire. One thing is clear: Twilley, who was in high school at the time, had decided to become an artist before the fire.


In “Rainy Night” (2017), the artist carefully invokes surfaces, tonalities, and detritus, such as tin cans and coffee cubs. The electric blue tarp glows in the crepuscular light. Raindrops are visible as they fall unimpeded into the room. While the room did not allow Twilley to dream in peace, she dreamed anyway, as evidenced by the two art books lying on the floor, one of which has a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period on the cover. Twilley uses the bedroom as an occasion to test her painting chops: can she be true to the drab and artificial colors, to surface textures, to stains, tin, and plastic, and to the gloomy light?

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