ART Magazine. San Antonio, Texas.
The Ursuline Hall Gallery, located on the Ursuline Campus of The Southwest School of Art, was filled with friendly conversation during the opening reception for Populux: A Hyphenated Culture by local artist and SSAC instructor Rainey. The crowd moved about talking amongst themselves and thoughtfully examining each piece of work. The work is all two dimensional, oil on panel, and hung along a long stretch of hall. Upon first glance several works read as advertisements for objects that would have been the height of technology during the mid 1950s-1960’s era referred to by the title, Populux or Popular Luxury. Other works show smiling people in the midst of leisure that are selling the lifestyle of a more innocent America. Rainey’s brushstrokes are smooth, deliberate and almost invisible; her images of objects are rendered graphically, with sharp text which pops and contrasts against the bright colors she employs. The figures are rendered more realistically and with more obvious brushstrokes which add life and animation to the work.
There is certain cheekiness in the way that Rainey paints her figures and objects as well a sense of nostalgia for days past. The figures display sensuality in the curves of their figures, smiles and the arches of their eyebrows. This sensuality is mirrored in the Jetsonian aesthetic of the electronics painted in an illustrative style, using fonts and colors popular in the 50’s and 60’s. As a viewer, it is easy to be engaged with the work, as its subject matter and style are familiar with us all. It is also easy to take the work at face value without considering its deeper implication, which becomes apparent only when one considers the nostalgic view of the 1950’s and 60’s and it’s actuality as well as the effect that it has had on the culture of today.
Rainey’s work clearly shows the hope and promise that filled a post war, suburban America and the desired lifestyle of the day. People once again could afford luxury goods and leisure time and these were sold to them in abundance. Rainey’s approach is devoid of any sarcasm which forces the viewer to confront and decide upon the statement which Rainey is making. Is the artist discussing this time period and the hope of the American dream with out truly focusing on the true turbulence of the era or is she making a juxtaposition between the glossy exterior of an era gone by and the actuality of the time? Is it a statement on consumerism, or an appreciation of the aesthetic used in advertisements? These questions that the viewer is forced to ask themselves about the work takes the paintings out of the realm of object and advertisement appreciation and forces deeper thought concerning why the artists chose these subjects and this style. She is painting more than just objects and lifestyles but an underlying sense of hope that existed in the America of years past.
Rainey studied art at the University of Texas at San Antonio and was the recipient of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Primer Paso Fellowship. She also teaches in SSA’s Teen Intensive Studio, Mobile Arts Program and for Summer Art Camp. Rainey received the SSA 2008 Award for Teaching.
Populux: A Hyphenated Culture is free to the public, open from 9am-5pm and will run through August 26, 2012.