Susan Brearey and Duane Slick: The In Between

June 22 - October 19, 2024

Throughout their artistic careers, Susan Brearey and Duane Slick have both drawn upon their connection, identification, and observation of animals and landscapes. The In Between marks the first time that the longtime friends have exhibited work together, bringing together imagery that emphasizes their shared interest in shadows and light, formal experimentation, and moving between abstraction and legibility. Both artists make work that deepens their own practice of personal myth-making and connections with the more-than-human world. 

Duane Slick is a Meskwaki painter and storyteller. Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Slick earned his BFA in painting from the University of Northern Iowa and his MFA in painting from the University of California, Davis. He began teaching painting and printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design in 1995.

Susan Brearey is known for her unique, iconic depiction of animals. A native of rural New England, Brearey attended college at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and earned an MFA in painting and printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design. She recently retired after teaching art for many years at the Putney School in Putney, Vermont.

The Coyote and the Raven

These two animals  play a significant role in each artist’s practice. For Slick, the coyote is the archetypal trickster character that often appears in North American tribal folklore, as well as a figure known for its elusive nature, connection with storytelling, and sophisticated ability to adapt and thrive in adverse environments. In his paintings, Slick uses formal techniques of layering, impasto, and camouflage to create an atmosphere that suggests and hints. His use of color, geometric lines, and angles enable him to depict the coyote directly, simply by its shadow, or by a mere suggestion of its presence. 

Brearey’s lifelong connection with ravens came from her French Canadian grandmother, who told her that seeing a raven would bring good luck and that the birds were important messengers one should pay attention to. “Their commanding presence has always been striking for me,” Brearey says. “Their Monty Python-like squawks are hilarious and attention-grabbing, as though the world should be quiet and a theatrical performance is about to begin.”  

Time

Slick is interested in communicating narratives that have not been included in colonial histories. His work includes techniques of non-linear storytelling that create cohesion and knowledge free of a dependence on chronology. Like layers hidden within a painting, Slick meticulously brings different historical narratives to the surface.  

Brearey’s work captures fleeting moments with precise detail and ephemerality that convey the special connections among humans, animals, and the wilderness. Her gestural mark-making techniques and chosen media become material traces of memory. They capture wondrous encounters with the world. 

Collaboration

Both Brearey and Slick collaborate actively with other artists. What the Night Tells Us is the most recent joint project by Slick and artist Martin Smick. The two have collaborated since 2018. For this work, Slick created an animation based on a 3D scan of his coyote mask, and projected it onto Smick’s screen paintings of water. Together, the two artists are thinking through the power of elemental forces and the experience of night.

Pumpkintown is a multimedia performance featuring Brearey’s paintings, the percussionist Peter Irvine, and Grammy-nominated ethnomusicologist Tim Eriksen. Using a “magic lantern”—a 19th-century version of a projector—Brearey creates images of graveyards, snowmobiles, ferns, wolves, and a village church on small glass slides, which are projected onto a backdrop. The result is a multicultural history, complete with stories and songs, of an imagined New England village.

— DJ Hellerman, curator

RELATED EVENTS

June 22, Saturday, 5:30 p.m. — Opening of Eight New Exhibits
August 15, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. — Art Talk: Susan Brearey, Duane Slick, and DJ Hellerman
October 12, Saturday, 7 p.m. — Pumpkintown: Songs, Stories, and Magic Lantern Projections from an Imaginary New England Village

RELATED RESOURCES

Installation views (coming soon)
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