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Band-Aids and Suburbia

Lucy White at Bernard Toale

By Michaela O. Daniel, Contributing Writer

In her most recent exhibit Lucy White again sets out on her most frequently attempted mission—to suggest that suburban America lacks creativity. Despite the overwhelming irony of that statement, White has surprisingly created an interesting and clever show.

Accompanying the work in this show is a biography of White that reads, “I grew up in Maine in a house with a lawn and a mother who took care of the house and a father who took care of the lawn. My latest body of works-on-paper are a series of simple and singular images which make up the building blocks of this suburban childhood. I have developed a stencil process to draw these images, arranging Band-Aids...Band-Aids are a familiar American icon, a useful tool from childhood suggesting that products can make life better.”

True to White’s claim, the paintings and titles in this exhibition are simple, but suggest complex implications. The first painting in the show is entitled “Headstone.” This wordless gray mass is shocking at first because of its placement in the show. It immediately sets the morbid tone that White wants—she suggests that life, creativity and energy are dead in the suburbs. The final paintings in this 20-painting exhibit is “Suburbia”. The green-on-green arrangement of mini cookie-cutter houses, lined up in perfect rows is eye catching. These paintings—together with works such as “Beer,” “Donut” and “Gun”—clearly portray White’s feelings about suburban America.

While White’s observations of the horrors of suburban America have validity, her work is stronger when she steps away from her crusade. Paintings that have nothing to do with suburban life, such as “Pigeons” and “Nude,” are the show’s strength. “Pigeons,” done in gray tones, is a very simple painting of pigeons searching for food. But the detail of the birds and their arrangement on the paper make it stand out. White depicts only a few full pigeons, showing just the feet and other extremities of the others. Painted in pinkish flesh tones, “Nude” is also simple, showing just the basic figure of a nude woman. But its simplicity and texture gives it an elegance and distinction the other drawings of nudes lack. In this case, as with all of the paintings, the medium is the force that makes the work interesting.

White composed all of the paintings in this show using a layering method of paint and Band-Aids. To create the pieces in this exhibit, she first painted a layer of color and placed differently shaped Band-Aids over the paper. Then she painted over that layer with another color and again placed more Band-Aids in a design on the paper. When she was done applying all of the colors in the piece, she removed the Band-Aids, revealing a multi-colored drawing. Although there are no Band-Aids on any finished drawings, White’s use of Band-Aids is clear in her work—the tiny holes, soft padding and distinctive rounded corners can be identified in almost every painting.

The show itself is imaginative and creative, unlike the idea behind it. The suburbs, like all areas in America, clearly have their faults, but White’s method of illuminating these faults seems counter-productive. She proves, through her work, that suburban America in fact does not stifle creativity. With nothing but paper, paint and a box of Band-Aids, White-—a suburbanite herself—has created fascinating works of art.

Lucy White’s work will be at the Bernard Toale Gallery through April 28. Call ( 617) 482-2477 or visit for directions and further information.

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