Face to Face With a Giant Canvas Fortress

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OFTEN I remind myself that things are not always the way I would like them to be, that I have to see them for what they are, and that sometimes the things that make no sense at all are the plainest facts of life. Like walls. Frankly they get in the way, and I'd like to see most of them go the Berlin route. But I live in a city of walls, all kinds, and they are almost all I see. Alyson Schultz paints huge canvases which act like and look like walls, and I can't decide if that is what they are about or if that is what they are. One of her canvases is actually titled ``Daniel's Wall,'' which gives me some idea that this is indeed what they are about. She makes giant exteriors so that she can tear at them. She cuts holes in them, literally and figuratively, which act as doors and windows. They cut both ways, just like walls; windows let you see in and out, walls keep them out and you in, or vice versa. These are bold paintings, awesome, really. They greet us like fortresses. We stand outside somewhere, small.

I'll leave it at this: These paintings do not look like their maker. I saw them before I saw her, and I was surprised by her small frame.

In the back of her loft near Boston, a long window separated two opposing walls where she did battle with her paintings. The setting was charged. It was the workshop of a dragon-slayer. Fierce. Bloody. You knew paint would fly. The rest of the space was partitioned off, the bedroom set above everything else, like a tower.

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Standing outside of a painting is like facing a barrier. We are on the outside, something is on the inside. Alyson Schultz recognizes this, and uses it. She turns into reality something which might otherwise be just a metaphor. Her paintings document a process, and a struggle, one we all face every day, but in art as well. This is one of the difficulties of modern painting. It reinforces the experience of the wall. Prior to Modernism, painting had always broken down that exterior to take us deep inside with illusions and references to space. In this century the prevailing intention has been to see the painting for what it is, a flat surface ... a wall.

Alyson Schultz makes something happen with her paintings that is a kind of realism. Not illusion but experience. By recreating the process of building up and knocking down what are all at once fences, filters, bars, masks, and fa,cades, she is acting out something we all do, and will continue to do. It is a vicious cycle, but also nature. Human nature. She makes it a noble endeavor.

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