Art saved my life.
Without it, I would not be here today.
As long as I can remember it has always called me. I have visceral memories, at 2 years old, of the joy I felt in creating. By 4 years old, I was taking lessons, in love with making art.
Through the lens of creativity I found solace in myself. I saw a vision of happiness, and at the same time fulfilled it, through art making, knowing that if I did not pursue my heart’s path, I would not be happy.
Five years after I received a BFA and MFA in fine art, I still followed the herd, making work that the market demanded. Seeking my own visual voice and vocabulary, I kept stepping away and coming back to my work, knowing how I fit into the world.
“Internally, I was struggling to realize a new, contemporary vision: A Meeting of Minimalism with the Primordial Magnificence of nature.”
After exploring many modalities, I landed resoundingly on my path when I created my “Sculpt-Paint Process.” This technique creates tactile, visceral, sculpted paintings that meld ceramic and sculptural dimensionality with painting.
This new visual vocabulary thrust me into the work I’m pursuing today.
I now own my art — its beauty, sensuality, and the new forms and language that I created.
“Follow Your Heart! Live Your Passion! Love Your Life!”
It’s about following your inner compass, even if you don’t know in the moment where that compass is pointing.
A Paean to Nature
My moment of deepest inspiration came to me while lying on my back in my atelier in the Cesky Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic. For weeks I had roamed the castle and been dazzled by the colorful frescos, carved relief facades, gilded carriages, and other Rococo and Baroque ornaments that infused almost every square foot of the castle’s walls and ceilings.
One afternoon, after hours of absorbing this nonstop cascade of visual delight, I lay down on my back on the tarps on my studio floor and closed my eyes to let their multitudinous reports from my day’s wanderings seep in more deeply.
Opening my eyes I looked up and saw that the ancient, dark, wooden cross beams passing over the very space where I had been painting during my artist residency were adorned with fading, barely visible images of sinuously intertwining vines, variegated leaves, and drooping flower blossoms whose swollen heads verged on eruption.
“I suddenly became alarmed that such beauty teetered towards oblivion, both figuratively on that ceiling, and in the natural world outside. As both Artist and Human, I mourned those marks fading into the forgotten past.”
As my eyes roamed back and forth across the painted limbs, leaves, and flower heads above me I recognized the ecstatic impulses of nature in that artist who had lived long before. Suddenly I ached for her marks to live on. I knew that my role was not to restore, or even replicate what she, or Mother Nature, had done before, but rather to channel that echoing creative impulse through my own visual language. The essence of my current body of work was born that day.
My paintings use the intoxicating lure of beauty to call the viewer forward to look more deeply at the surface of reality. What you see may come up to greet your hand, as the sculptured and contoured forms that ripple across the surface beguile you to touch and beckon you to experience more art deeply.
Eugenia Pardue and the Flowering of Bliss
by Richard Speer ©2016
In her work across a gamut of disciplines, artist Eugenia Pardue marries an unconventional approach to materials with an unabashed visual hedonism. Her visual syntax draws heavily from the natural world: the curlicues, radial petals, and branching tendrils of flowers, vines, trees, and seed pods, in addition to coral, sea anemones, and other underwater life. She also takes inspiration from antique floral prints, tole painting, tapestries, and the world of fashion. These disparate referents coalesce in her imagination and her fluid, responsive hand, which she deploys with an uncanny melding of gestural abandon and precision.
“Her intuitive understanding of the historical relationship between beauty, decorativity, and expression comes forward in works that are simultaneously High Romantic and post-ironic.”
This attitude is no doubt born of her background. Descended from Hungarian nobility, Pardue was born in Los Angeles and has lived in some of the United States’ most distinctive cities, including New Orleans, Louisiana; Miami, Florida; and now Portland, Oregon, in the verdant, waterfall-dotted Pacific Northwest. Each of these cities, while very different, brought her in touch with the teeming organicism of nature.
Not incidentally, Pardue has long harbored a fascination with Baroque and Rococo motifs, which she often adapts and incorporates into her paintings, drawings, and prints. She spent the summer of 2006 painting in Český Krumlov Castle in southern Bohemia, immersed in the castle’s haunting mélange of Gothic, Baroque, and Rococo architecture, frescoes, and trompe l’oeil. Two years later while visiting France, she delighted in the grandeur of Versailles and its formal gardens. In 2014, during the course of a prestigious residency with The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts in upstate New York, she drew further inspiration from the landscape and its riches. From her personal history and travels she brings to her practice a reverence for aristocratic beauty, opulence, and ecstatic experience.
Pardue earned a BFA degree in painting from Florida International University and an MFA from Clemson University. Among her artistic influences she is especially indebted to the pantheon of women artists who have given her profound aesthetic sustenance: Louise Nevelson, Agnes Martin, Bridget Riley, Lynda Benglis, and Kiki Smith among them. One also finds a nod to Georgia O’Keeffe in her sensual treatment of botanical imagery. Pardue is deeply invested in what she calls “feminizing the square”: subverting the Golden Mean and the stereotypical masculinity of associated with rectilinear geometry, with the supple curvilinearity we associate with the feminine. She also rejects the precious smoothness of the digital realm for the delicious chaos of nature.
Indeed, the nubby tactility of the vegetal world is central to her innovative approach to paint application; in a very real sense, she sculpts with acrylic paint: building it into extravagant shapes that loop, glide, and jut from the picture plane. “My mission,” she reflects, “is to push the limits of surface in unexplored directions.” Which is something of an understatement, given the spectacular, Art Nouveau-like fecundity of her semi-abstracted floral forms, which rise above an immaculately smooth ground, as in bas-relief.
For all her maximalism in surface, however, Pardue tends toward minimalism when it comes to color. She is perhaps best known for her immaculate white-on-white paintings, which absorb the broad spectrums of natural and studio lighting with an almost sponge-like eagerness.
These works exude an elegance, self-possession, and quiet confidence that are contagious. They whisper white secrets of cloudscapes, snowfall, and the touch of Egyptian cotton sheets. They know of desire and discretion and the middle where they meet.
“In the flat, digital world we live in, Eugenia Pardue’s extraordinary paintings remind us we are flesh, bone, and blood—and in so doing, reawaken our capacity for bliss.”
—Richard Speer is an author, critic, and curator whose essays and reviews have appeared in ARTnews, Art Ltd., Visual Art Source, Salon, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Post. He is the author of “Matt Lamb: The Art of Success” (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, revised edition 2013). For his arts reportage in print, broadcast, and online journalism he has been honored with numerous awards from The Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.