On March 4, 2013, I met Shelley Adler when she was invited to speak about her work in my Philosophy of Art class. A Canadian painter, Adler studied fine art at York University, the Edinburgh College of Art, and Boston University, where she obtained a Master’s Degree. Her work has appeared at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto and the Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York, as well as being featured in the Canadian Art Magazine.
Adler spoke about her creative process and the reasons behind her large-scale portraits on a canvas. She faithfully uses oil as a medium and makes large scale work to communicate with the audience in a way that provokes them. At times, one feels these magnified faces alter the viewer-subject relationship, where the paintings seem to become the observer—the viewer becoming the subject of the painted gaze. Adler contended that her work considers the female gaze, where most of her subjects are women who are staring out towards the audience or gazer.
Her paintings are overpowering and inquisitive. Adler asserted that what she sees is what she paints for us to observe and interrogate with the aim to beckons us, and raise questions such as: Who are we? Who is she? Who are they?
Adler breaks the traditional connection of portraiture being associated with family, her work intending to sever these connections, doing so by portraying random faces for her audience to enjoy. In this sense, portraiture becomes isolated from its genealogy, and the faces become alienated, where they are intimidating, yet stunning!
Adler ended her talk by stating, quite simply, that “Painting is beautiful,” and I could not agree more.
Shelley Adler lives and works in Toronto. In 2012, Adler released the book Picture Day.