Let’s begin with the painting, the materiality, the skin-like quality of oil paint itself living and breathing on a surface with more present and past than any other medium. Painting with oil is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, it’s physical, messy, dangerous and sleek as an otter in its capacity to elude and delight, to shimmer and then muddy up as if saying, “no not yet, go forward by starting over.” Great oil painters, of which Deirdre White is one, dance with their medium and thus expose their own viscera in the drag of a line or the mix of a color mostly seen by surgeons or first responders.
White’s subjects, the mobile contraptions built by un-homed people, gain historical grounding though her reference to the folds of cloth and bindings found in artworks by the old masters. Tarps, blankets and tents become togas, robes and table covers and the people, mostly unseen, transform into modern day penitents on an endless pilgrimage. Yet, there are no stations of the cross, streets or hostels along the way to give meaning or shelter to their quest.
White’s capacity to see the present through the past and thereby reveal a flattening in time between a person’s housed before and un-homed now insists we simultaneously consider multiple concepts: Dignity, loss, ingenuity, despair, fate and favor, fucked and not yet fucked. That we look squarely at the brilliant colors and lush wrinkles of our uneven but collective collapse.