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Jaquelyn Tuerk Professor of Art History Kean University

 

Xanda McCagg's mixed media paintings appeal to the human scale, measuring as large as five feet or as small as five inches, inviting close observation and intimacy. McCagg combines bright and vibrant thick paint with thin washes of muted and fleshy earth tones, the juxtaposition of which excites emotion. Luminous yellows and golds glow from the inside, and saturated mauves shine like encaustic. Stained glass luminosity quivers just below the surface. The sculptural facades alternate with thin and thick paint, over and under pencil marks, exploring depth through patterns of lightly and heavily saturated color. Smeared wet paint is as supple and sensuous as cake icing. Dripping pigment is unexpectedly oriented horizontally. And calligraphic lines gesticulate, calling attention to the surface plane. Both nervous and graceful lines ungulate: nervous in their trembling angularity and erratic turning, yet elegant in their follow-through, leading the eye through various layers of color and texture. A collage of line on one piece of paper leads to and connects to another piece. The lines serve as tour guides through depth without relying on naturalistic representation. Figural gestures and three-dimensional space suggest traditional problems of painting, yet within the context of abstraction.

 

McCagg's commitment to abstraction only further emphasizes the solutions she discovers for how to situate a form in space. And the suggestion of -- even flirting with -- figural forms suggests intimate narratives of body parts up close. McCagg's ephemeral subject matter is space itself in relation to form. The depth of space continually shifts, leading the viewer from one spatial experience into a wholly different one and back again. The viewer is left with a feeling of capturing a glimpse of something essential, but only for a moment as the line evolves from one mark to the next. McCagg's images articulate peace, in a lyrical, soft, and complex undulation of unexpected interactions. Sometimes she creates resolution through clear backgrounds or foregrounds, and yet in contrast the middle ground may seem strife-ridden. Before any one painting, the space opens so as to give the sensation to the viewer of walking into an alternative world of palimpsest forms, where imagination challenges perception.