There are two ways of looking at Emily Eveleth’s painting “Break.” Located on the second floor of Aldrich in the river-side hallway, you can either get right up close with the work and really take in the details of the painter’s technique, or step back about 5 feet and appreciate the piece as a cohesive whole. Each option provides the viewer with a unique perspective on one of America’s quintessential symbols: the jelly donut. In this way, it is reminiscent of the POP art movement that took the country by storm in the 60s. If you like this piece, you may want to check out work by Andy Warhol.
The imagery of these sweet, jelly-filled pastries stacked one on top of the other is lighthearted and fun. It inspires a feeling of happiness and decadence, while also enticing the viewer to step closer and take a bite!
Many still-life artists tackled similar subject matter in a far more formal manner (think of the intricately painted Renaissance panels of finely detailed fruit piled on a table top). What makes Eveleth’s piece different is her selection of a much more contemporary icon of fast-food culture and her ability to transform it into something that seems to have a personality of its own. The close-up perspective almost makes us think of these donuts as having monumental importance.
Eveleth’s technique “unlocks the expressive potential” in everyday objects. Up close, the brush strokes seem sketchy and laden with kinesthetic (kinetic?) energy. I’m always attracted to artists who use this painting technique because it gives the viewer a hint to the artistic process.you can almost see the action of the artist applying paint to the canvas. By using heavy and rich brush strokes, the donut shapes are barely defined by any real linear qualities, and the colors seem positioned in chunky deposits of paint.
However, when you take a step back, the piece becomes an entirely different composition where the colors blend brilliantly and give definition to the round forms set against the dark setting. The orange tones in the pastries seem to pop out against the complimentary purple jelly and background. The coloring is further used to create the illusion of light, which adds additional depth to the piece.
The donuts are also positioned to add a dimension of movement to the composition. There is a great deal of built up energy in the way they are stacked with the gooey insides dripping out. The artist has captured a moment when these pastries have just been removed from the oven and are bursting with the weight of the jelly filling.
It took me awhile to conclude that this heaviness is part of a major tension found in this work of art. On the one hand, these donuts seem laden with the thick and viscous jelly. On the other hand, their surfaces are finished with the feathery brush stroke that implies a light powder coating. The juxtaposition of these two textures lends to the overall success of this piece.