Isca Greenfield-Sanders


Referring more to its content than it does to formalist discourse on the boundaries between painting and photography, Isca Greenfield-Sanders’ recent solo at Lombard-Freid Fine Art is a tour de force in which art and ideology are seamlessly entwined. Her methods – digitally altered, found photographs printed on canvas then worked into with paint – address post-modernist dialogue by blurring the boundaries between processes, causing a certain tension in the work; but her expressive effects within these constructs is what takes precedence. In this arena, Greenfield-Sanders is simply transcendent.

Subject matter is taken from generic old photographs, the kind that might comprise a sort of universal family album. These faded images are layered over with sharply delineated color contrasts; jewel tones of turquoise or emerald and the corals and reds that become radiant at dusk. These shimmering colors are translucent, almost hallucinatory, and cast a luminous scrim of sensory associations over the mundane imagery. They serve to intensify the evocation of memory; the images almost waver in and out of focus, much like long forgotten memories in the process of recall or heat mirages one sees on the road ahead in summer. The work feels both real and unreal, tangible and intangible; a distillation of experience that somehow blends with the viewer’s own. There is magic in that, and haunting poetry, too.

Mining the universal, Greenfield-Sanders depicts people who ring with familiarity; their situations become our own. Profoundly moving, they touch a deep chord of empathic recognition in the viewer. This is particularly evident in “Picnic Series (Red Shirt),” which portrays a toddler with arms raised in supplication to be picked up. The child’s glowing red shirt seems to levitate off the blue-green background. This painting is a knockout, full of delicious sensory anticipation. We have all either comforted that child or been that child at some point or other in our lives. One can almost feel his weight as he is lifted and swung through the air. The iconic mother/grandmother figure of “Waterskier II,” standing in the shallow surf with her dog, is another particularly resonant image, tinged with pale pinks as gossamer as memory itself. Evoking such palpable recognition of moments is Greenfield-Sanders’ great strength.

Sublimely humanist, these works conjure joy – the warmth of family and nostalgia for homes long gone – as well as the searing pain of their inevitable loss. Perhaps, as well, the pain of unrequited desire for the home and family that one might never have had, but might have wished for fervently. The images appear like subliminal recollections; snapshots of vague recall that hit eyes first, like strobe flashes that illuminate the darkness with rapidly fading glimmers, leaving one with the toasty sensations of reminiscence. Greenfield-Sanders leaves an indelible mark on the heart; as both a gift and a scar.