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Entertainment & Arts

In Patty Wickman’s mesmerizing paintings, scenes ripe with meaning

A detail of “First Bite,” a Patty Wickman painting on view at Lora Schleshinger Gallery.
A detail of “First Bite,” a Patty Wickman painting on view at Lora Schleshinger Gallery.
(From Patty Wickman and Lora Schlesinger Gallery. )

Patty Wickman’s astonishing work at Lora Schlesinger Gallery in Santa Monica calls to mind William Blake’s oft-quoted invitation to see a world in a grain of sand. In Wickman’s painting “First Bite,” one of Western culture’s essential narrative threads announces itself via a simple backyard snapshot. The epic resides in the everyday. This is Eden; this is home.

The painting shows a little boy standing on a garden paver, one hand holding a just-bitten apple, the other reaching across his body as if to cover his nakedness. One bite of the fruit and self-consciousness begins to supplant innocence. Vegetables grow in the raised beds beside the boy, and behind him stands an espaliered apple tree ripe with emblematic import. The trunk divides into an elegant trinity of stems, the central spine rising to sprout a perfectly symmetrical effusion of leaves, the ornamental turned transcendent, the garden gone divine.

“First Bite” by Patty Wickman, 2018-19, on view at Lora Schlesinger Gallery. Oil on linen, 84 inches by 104 inches.
“First Bite” by Patty Wickman, 2018-19, on view at Lora Schlesinger Gallery. Oil on linen, 84 inches by 104 inches.
(From Patty Wickman and Lora Schlesinger Gallery)

Wickman, based in L.A., loads but never overloads her sense impressions with symbolism. She pays scrupulous attention to the edge and surface and gleam of every form, but still an ease and looseness invigorate the surface. More than accreting the details of a thing, she describes the experience of it, the wonder of it.

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“Circumscribe” by Patty Wickman, 2017-19. Oil on linen, 84 inches by 104 inches.
“Circumscribe” by Patty Wickman, 2017-19. Oil on linen, 84 inches by 104 inches.
(From Patty Wickman and Lora Schlesinger Gallery )

In “Circumscribe,” another stunner, the dappled leaves of a manzanita tree are articulated individually, as if Wickman is transcribing a code, but without ever relinquishing its mystery. Her graphite and watercolor study for the large oil hangs across from it, every bit as entrancing in near-monochrome as the canvas soaked wine red, airy blue and a panoply of greens.

Patty Wickman’s study for “Circumscribe.”
Patty Wickman’s study for “Circumscribe.”
(Alan Shaffer / Lora Schlesinger Gallery )

Each year during Lent, Wickman makes a daily painting. Fourteen of these intimate chronicles (from 2014 and 2016) are on view here, each the size of a postcard. One records the white speckle of aphid eggs on a patch of leaves. Another, a spider framed in a window. And another, a caterpillar affixed to a house number. These sketched observations exist on the same continuum as the larger, spiritually-suffused narratives. Wickman’s acute practice collapses the distance between them: vision and visionary, natural and supernatural.

‘Aphid Eggs, 11 Mar 16' by Patty Wickman
Patty Wickman, " Aphid Eggs, 11 Mar 16,” 2016 oil on canvas.
(Lora Schlesinger Gallery)

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Patty Wickman
Where: Lora Schlesinger Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave. B5b, Santa Monica

When: Tuesdays-Saturdays, through Oct. 19

Info: (310) 828-1133, www.loraschlesinger.com

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