The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
In the Archive Space of the Crane Arts Building, painter Mariel Capanna has a show, entitled "Recess," that features canvases from up to five feet tall, to minute renderings on 3×5 inch index cards. This childhood outlet for recreation is one of the themes present in her tiny paintings, which capture the scene of lots, fences and fields where many of us fondly remember playing in our youth.
While the outdoor spaces like parks and basketball courts may seem somewhat gigantic to children, the steady march of adulthood and social norms puts them into an entirely new perspective. We lose some of the mystery and allure and see these locations for what they are, for better or worse.
Capanna captures this retreat of youthful idealism by limiting these images to the dimensions of notecards. Many of us are also familiar with these ruled pieces of card stock from the days of flashcards and tests. Used to pore over information and study for good grades, these cards stand in direct contrast to the diversions painted onto them. Recess used to be a break from the exhausting school day, and although our methods of both work and amusement may have changed with age, the relaxation of a weekend or vacation getaway still manages to seize our imagination.
The larger works by Capanna are created in an entirely different fashion. The artist completes these oil paintings while watching movies. Unwinding with a film is perhaps a form of entertainment that both young and old could agree upon, which broadens the definition of recess a bit. Capanna paints and attempts to focus on the moving images simultaneously, so a great deal of the film's information is lost in translation, and the final result emerges as a spur-of-the-moment visual summary.
Her biggest piece is “Week-long music-fest, Early-morning fly-fishing” which captures the park-like green spaces similar to those of her smaller series. Raindrops, a pool, some triangular pine trees, and a winding road set this area apart from the concrete and traffic cones of playgrounds. She also adds a surprising amount of depth, bringing the trucks popping off the canvas into three dimensions. This fast-paced flurry of content makes these paintings seem like they stem from a more mature – perhaps urgent – mindset than the empty, beckoning settings on her index cards.
“Recess” will be on view at the Archive Space through July 2.
The Crane Arts Building is located at 1400 North American St., Philadelphia; firstname.lastname@example.org; cranearts.com.