SELINA TRIEFF: Master of the Look


PAAM 2007 PAAM exhibition catalogue

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In the tradition of Watteau and Velázquez’s clowns (and Shakespeare’s fool in King Lear), Selina Trieff’s paintings of animal and human faces belie a profound understanding of what remains true for humans over time in a manner that is both whimsical and mysterious.

Called “an American original” by New York Times art critic John Russell, Trieff’s somewhat autobiographical classical gold-leaf and oil portraits of human figures read paradoxically like characters on a modern stage wherein the artist, the painted archetypical figures (“neither male nor female…(but rather) the face of the soul”), and the viewer are all engaged in a riveting dialogue.

For Trieff, her animal subjects (pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, her dog Louie, whom she calls her alter ego) are both “hilariously funny and at the same time very sad,” and reflect symbolically the human condition. “Re-creating the spirit of animals…has allowed for a kind of explosion of paint,” she adds. Trieff’s exquisite drawing ability shines through in these fantastic portraits. Whether of human or animal, Trieff’s portraits are allegories for our time, or any other. Said art historian and art critic Eileen Kennedy, “If Shakespeare had had a sister, she would probably have been Selina Trieff.”