Providence artist Monica Shinn's paintings at Buonaccorsi + Agniel (1 Sims Ave, #102, Providence, through November 3) feel something like diaries. In Where We Fed the Seagulls, you can feel the cool, brisk breeze rushing over the wide expanse of yellow-green marsh. The oil paint is dashed in with scrubby strokes, loose and offhand, observational and idiosyncratic, like someone trying to quickly jot down the feeling of the place before it escapes her.
EXPRESSIONIST VOCABULARY Shinn’s Four Mornings.
Four Mornings details sketchy green and yellow plants running up to a round horizon that might be a beach, under a scrubbed-in purple-gray sky. An orange dog — or maybe it's a fox — is jotted into the foreground. These are representational paintings but rendered with an improvisational expressionist vocabulary of paint that is alternately thin or built up in brief impastos.
Her style might bring to mind the midcentury painterly realism of Jane Freilicher, who was in the New York circle of Fairfield Porter and Willem de Kooning, and whose quiet, calm, poetic, domestic still-lifes and landscapes bridge observational reality and de Kooning's sensual abstraction.
I'm not sure what to make of Shinn's paintings like I Heard the Thunder, in which sketches of bears, deer, a turkey, and other critters wrap around a view of a French street. What is the meaning of uniting the street and beasts? Are these contrasting visions or daydreams? Visually the hybrid doesn't gel.
But Shinn is on firm ground with congenial paintings like Is That a Fur Coat?, which observes a person standing in a telephone booth along a street outside Paris, under dark trees in an ultramarine blue night. Or Armstrong #17, which gazes down from an upper story window onto a snowy gray vista of one of those familiar Providence streets with the houses crowded together and right against the road. The works are about the play between the tactile pleasure of the paint versus way Shinn depicts her reality, detailed but kind of fuzzy, like a memory.