The work in Kristen Cliburn’s new show, titled Wide Soak, serves as a continuation of her recurring impulse to sublimate human emotion into color and light. Cliburn’s painstaking manipulation of these canvases is a creative refrain to the intensity with which she experiences those emotions, and each one vibrates with its own certainty of feeling. Deposits of color gather tension and then slowly release in a display of masterful technical control, a dance of abstraction that belies no trace of the artist’s hand. What is left of Cliburn’s disembodied forms is an invitation to the viewer to similarly take leave of any grounding in physical space by way of the eyes’ natural ability to gaze.
Color and emotion are essential elements of Kristen Cliburn’s work, but so too are the biological phenomena that make a viewer’s gaze possible. The optical function after which the show is named denotes the use of rods rather than cones as the primary retinal sensors for human sight. This particular type of sight is characterized by a relaxed brow and dilated pupils and allows the eye to view an image more holistically than does the more focused sight through one’s cones. A viewer’s wide soak reveals the seeming impossibility of Cliburn’s color dissipations, as well as variations in dimension on the surface of the canvas formed through multiple cycles of gesso application and removal. There is no form without such function in her work—the images she creates propose not only new aesthetic structures to see but also a new way of seeing.