Natalie Westbrook’s exhibition at ZYNKA Gallery in Pittsburgh features new paintings on canvas and drawings on paper. Westbrook depicts faces as thick lines immersed in saturated hot pinks, greens or monochrome gradations—altogether fluctuating between the monstrous and the angelic, the scary and the pathetic. Sometimes they are solitary and sometimes they indicate twins or perhaps a fragmented self. In her catalogue essay on Natalie Westbrook’s work, Larissa Pham observes that Faces “come for you, leering, grinning, mouths a garish lipsticked rictus of joy, embedded flat against the canvas, their features seeming to emerge from the psychological fabric of the painting itself.”
Westbrook says that the sense of isolation during the COVID pandemic made her yearn to see and feel human eyes looking back at her. These faces became companions within her solitary studio. Now she is eager to bring viewers ‘face to face’ with these paintings that look back at us. That being said, Westbrook’s faces are unsettling. They fluctuate and shift—at once recognizable and alien. Eyes are central and come in ever changing forms—sometimes they are represented as in young children’s drawings with uneven linear ovals, hollow pupils, and three lines for eyelashes, while in other paintings they resemble a screenshot from a meticulously rendered video game or an animated horror movie. At times these symbolic faces resemble unknown topographies where the viewer’s eyes navigate around to decipher a good path. Only here there is no one path to go. Westbrook’s paintings remain obstinately allusive and keep fluctuating in front of our eyes, directing our gaze inwards toward our own preconceptions, thoughts, fears, and desires.
All photos courtesy of Natalie Westbrook
Natalie Westbrook, Faces at Zynka Gallery opens Sat, May 7th 5-8PM and runs through July 3rd, 2022 904 Main Street Pittsburgh, PA 15215
Natalie Westbrook received her BFA from The Cooper Union, her MA in Critical and Curatorial Studies from the University of Louisville, and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale University School of Art where she received the Robert Schoelkopf Memorial Travel Grant, and the Carol Schlosberg Memorial Prize for Excellence in Painting. Westbrook has exhibited internationally, including shows with Mindy Solomon, Miami, FL; Freight+Volume, New York, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY; Wonzimer Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Rarity Gallery, Mykonos, Greece; Gallery Golsa, Oslo, Norway; Artformosa, Taipei City, Taiwan; Paris Contemporary Art Show; Paris, France. The artist’s work is held in private and public collections, including Markel Corporation, Red Bank, NJ; Capital One, Richmond, VA; and Art Bank Program, US Department of State, Washington, DC; and Haleakala National Park, Maui, HI. Westbrook was appointed Lecturer in Painting at Yale University from 2010-2018, and currently teaches at Carnegie Mellon University where she lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA