Library Street Collective is pleased to present Pooled, a solo exhibition of new works by Texas-based artist Natalie Wadlington, opening Saturday, August 21st. Originally from Modesto, California, Wadlington often incorporates nostalgic references to her childhood through storytelling and figuration. Many of her recent paintings and drawings consist of narrations of backyard scenes commenting on complex relationships and general existentialism, with hints toward environmentalism. Pooled tells the story of a fictional neighborhood just outside of the Bay Area of California, focusing on the loss of natural spaces through urban development and suburban sprawl. Through each scene, Wadlington portrays human relationships to animals and nature, and our obsession with expansion and control. Although all natural spaces are in some way affected by human behavior, Pooled offers a very clear ecosystem in which humans’ desire for control is often thwarted by nature, symbolizing our lack of ultimate authority, even within domestic spaces. Interestingly, Wadlington consistently features children and animals as the main characters in her works, neither of whom are intently focused on the domination of natural spaces. As a result, elements of playfulness and wonderment are brought forth, highlighting the innocence of the youth and reminding adults of their child-like nature—wide-eyed, inquisitive, and explorative—rather than contextualizing issues through compartmentalization and avoidance.
Wadlington presents ideas of wonderment through her paintings, situating environmental concerns as an underlying theme instead of explicitly depicting the harsh realities of climate change. The figures playfully engage within natural spaces, simultaneously providing hope and angst, a dichotomy that creates a subtle tension within her work. The inclusion of water, for example, can be perceived in a number of manners, potentially providing multiple layers of understanding. A boy playfully spraying water at his pet dog, a sports boat resting in the driveway, rain barrels lining the side of a home, and water flowing through a hose to fill a small man-made pond can all be overlooked as commonalities within backyard spaces. However, there is a greater message to be deduced from the imagery. Wadlington is discussing water scarcity concerns and presenting multiple ways in which we interact with water, whether recreationally, wastefully, or conservatively. Without moral judgements, Wadlington is simply reminding us of the precarious nature of our relationship to water, a resource necessary for human life and particularly controversial in California.
Wadlington utilizes these relationships as symbols for overall existentialism and commentary on the complexity and anxiety of human life. She specifically chooses painting as her medium because of the impossibility of absolute control, seamlessly connecting the medium with the underlying theme of her work. The imagery in Wadlington’s paintings is often whimsical and dreamy, yet the scenes are all artificial depictions, with paint weaving the experiences through psychological and emotional tones within the works.
Natalie Wadlington: Pooled, on display from August 21 through September 18, 2021.
Backyard with Pond, 2021
Oil on canvas
96h x 96w in
Backyard with Dog, 2021
Oil on canvas
108h x 108w in
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