The characters Allison Schulnik creates in her clay animations and heavily impastoed, or thickly layered, paintings take on a haunting sense of foreboding evocative of a Shakespearean tragedy. Discomfort and unease is palpable, yet we cannot help but experience their plight from a position of compassion. The people and animals around her—those she knows and others who are only peripherally familiar—inspire Schulnik. “They make their way into my brain and then seem to make a home among my many imagined realities,” she has said. “When I put something in material form, I just hope to capture this otherworldly buffoonery or maybe present a simple earthly moment.” Idyllwild, for instance, is based on a photograph of the artist’s brother and his dog. A weary-looking clown holds an umbrella and cane, and he and his canine companion stare out at the viewer. They are nearly concealed in thick layers of drab green, rusty brown, and shadowy black paint. Yet, from around the figure’s neck hangs a bright blue ribbon tied in a bow—reminding us of the levity within all of us.
Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017