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Kendra Larson
Augen Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Kendra Larson, "Summer Camp," 2016, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 9"

Continuing through January 28, 2017

Halcyon nostalgia meets David Lynchian eeriness in Kendra Larson’s deceptively insouciant paintings, which are her particular take on scenes of classic Americana. In “Escape,” a composition anchored by the image of a tent in the woods at nighttime, you can practically hear the chirping of crickets and the crackle of the campfire. In “Dream Swim” teenagers sit on a lakeside dock, contemplating a nocturnal dip. The man and woman in “Drift” recline languidly in a rubber raft, blissed out by the natural beauty enveloping them. Other images of summer camp and drive-in movie theaters evoke a collective memory lodged somewhere between the 1950s and 1970s, an indeterminate vintage that would seem rose-colored and sun-soaked, were it not for Larson’s grayscale palette, which lends itself to not only the antiquarian feel of black-and-white photos, but also to an air of the sinister. 

In these small-town and woodland idylls, you find yourself wondering whether a serial killer is about to pop out from behind those towering trees, or a green-scaled creature emerge from that black lagoon. Adding to mysterious mood, the night skies overarching these vignettes are filled with ringed planets and flaring stars, strong-arming the viewer into a forced pivot between the familiarity of the microcosm and the intimidating vastness of the macrocosm. We may think we know the Mayberry memories of our past, Larson suggests, but there is much, much more beneath the surface — and over the rainbow — that we can never divine, and probably wouldn’t want to.

Augen Gallery (DeSoto Building)

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