Review: The peculiar appeal of Rebecca Morris’ paintings, on view in L.A. on July 6 through August 8 at the Skirball Center gallery.
REBECCA MURPHY’S paintings are, to put it lightly, deeply weird. She says it’s the result of “a very deep and personal response to things that surround me: a woman in my life who has suffered deeply with depression, a son who has been diagnosed with autism, and a dog who is suffering from separation anxiety.”
The result is a series of haunting, sometimes shocking, sometimes ethereal portraits of these and other themes of personal angst and psychological trauma.
“My hope is that these are works of art that will open people’s hearts and have empathy,” says Ms. Morris, who is 31, the daughter of a black minister and a white lawyer from an affluent, middle class family. “I’m not saying it’s easy to create a compelling story, but it’s a challenge.”
L.A. art critics love her work. Her paintings of the same name have sold for $5,000 each, and in an exhibition where each artist is guaranteed to sell at least $100,000, her works could fetch as much as $1.2 million if they are accepted into the group show.
Ms. Morris has been in L.A. since 1999, living and working in Hollywood. She is on the faculty of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but not at art school. A graduate of Brown University and Rutgers University, she started her art career working for an ad agency. After being let go and living in New York to raise her son, she went to Los Angeles.
Over time, her paintings changed from abstract to more personal portrayals of depression; her dog began to accompany her on her travels. Now, a decade into her career as an artist, she has developed a new vision; her work has gained a new clarity. All of them have a quality that resembles a photograph: the face of someone in pain, or a memory of a place or object.
But her work has also gained a quality