Iris Scott's Solo Show Featuring Her Imaginative Finger Paintings
Standing in front of Iris Scott’s (b. 1984) breathtaking finger paintings at her exhibition “Ritual in Pairing,” one is captivated by her representations of nature and the application of her finger stokes. In her artwork, the natural world is one of her main inspirations. Scott does not have a strong interest in artistic themes that are considered fashionable today.
She says “I think that nature is much older, and will outlast us, she’s (nature) the art history I tend to draw from.” Due to nature’s perpetual state of being and timelessness, it will always be a relevant topic to explore through art.
Her general process includes laying out all her colors. “There’s hundreds of colors, and I wear gloves, they last me all day. And like clay, I squeeze out big, thick globs, and I sorta manhandle it into position. It's a lot of tinkering, a lot of measuring. I have a base in realism so I can break the rules because I can render. They kind of grow organically. It's a joy.”
As a viewer observes Scott’s pieces, they can follow the strokes as though they are her fingerprints left behind, and if they spend enough time in front of the works, they may visualize her fingers in the process of molding the paint. Scott says, “That’s what I love about thick paint, it shows where I’ve been.” The works make the viewer feel they have left the gallery and reached an alternate reality.
One of Scott’s childhood drawings was the inspiration for Exodus of Pisces (2019). She came across the drawing as an adult and was so amazed by her fearless imagination that she decided to make a painting. In the piece, a figure is spreading their wings, looking up, and standing in a dragon boat that is breathing fire. Alongside the boat, a snake, a whale, and fish swim in the patterned ocean, all venturing in the same direction. Even though we do not see the object of their attention, the implication of such a place pulls the viewer farther in to this scene, and encourages them to imagine the unseen destination and envision a future event.
While the viewer studies the work, they can step into her exciting childhood world, letting their imagination run wild. Scott feels “the predominant art that I am seeing is not inviting at all to children, society will know that they are on the wrong track if their art does not resonate with children.” Thus, if the viewer is a child, this piece will appeal to them in a way that most contemporary art will not appeal to a young mind. If the viewer is an adult, they can escape for a little while, and become a child again themselves.
In Scott’s monumental self-portrait I of the Needle (2019), she is looking down to where she is sewing her dress, possibly in an unbreakable state of concentration. At her hand, the needle continues off her thumb and parallels the direction of her middle finger, as though it is an extension of her hand. Her arms, the thread, and the ripples in the dress all display various diagonal lines, carrying the viewer’s eyes throughout the work. Behind Scott, trees and leaves fill the background, making the viewer think she is in nature. However, these natural aspects are juxtaposed by the lightswitch, which forces the viewer back into a human constructed room. The work expands past the typical self-reflection of a self-portrait, as it contains multiple layers of history.
Tiger Fire (2019) depicts a large female tiger sitting down in between trees, gazing at an unknown being off the picture plane. The tiger appears to be in a relaxed position, as though she is imitating the leisure behavior of the nature that surrounds her body. However, her alert eyes, active paws, and massive size give the impression that she could jump out at the viewer at any moment. Blue-green leaves pleasantly lay overtop of the mainly orange animal, displaying an exciting contrast of complementary colors. In the distance, trees are on fire, holding the potential to destroy this entire habitat, perhaps representing the wrongful human deforestation of the environment.
MangHoe Lassi Rising (2019) portrays a gender non-binary individual, who during the day is Humza A. Mian, a male veterinary technician, by night is a woman and who goes by the name MangHoe Lassi. In the larger-than-life work, Lassi’s colorful eyes warmly stare down at the viewer. She is covered in patterns, from her stain glass-like turban, to the sequined-looking top of the dress, and the peacock feather shape that covers the rest of the dress. Her long sleeves that spread off the sides of the painting appear as though they will turn into wings, and Lassi will fly away, becoming a mystical legend. The various floating, confetti-like marks emphasize the magical ambiance of the painting.
The curator of the exhibition, Gabrielle Aruta, believes it was a significant choice for Scott to paint Lassi. “[It was] a big deal for Iris, to go ‘I want to do that. I was in Taiwan. I know queer South Asians. There’s a lack of representation, there’s lack of representation for a variety of different kinds of faces in classical portraiture. I really wanna celebrate this bearded drag queen in all her glory, in all her fabulousness, and in a style that is reminiscent of both Gustav Klimt and John Singer Sargent.’ [Scott is] really trying to exercise the significance of utilizing a social media presence and utilizing a skill set to try to make an impact on the world.”
Lead Image Credit: Erik Nuenighoff