Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Art of Kathleen Eaton

The image to the left -- entitled "Parkway" -- is just one of many by Chicago-area artist Kathleen Eaton.

Eaton specializes in paintings and painted editions of urban and suburban environments. Many are strangely deserted, as if they've been captured just moments before the early morning rush, or at an unexpectedly quiet moment during a weekend afternoon, or so late at night everyone else has gone home.

This feeling may have something to do with Eaton's color choices, which tend to vibrant oranges and reds, or spectral blues and violets. Or the long shadows that stretch across the frame.

When people do appear in Eaton's work, they may only be silhouetted inside windows and doors, or somewhere off in the distance attending to something just out of sight.

You may have seen Eaton's work if you've ever flown in and out of Chicago's Midway airport, where several of her large-format paintings are on display.

I've been a fan of Kathleen Eaton's work for many years now, and post it here because I've been thinking a lot about art and design in horror. Too much of it, I think, relies on the tried-and-true conventions of blood, decay, knives or other weapons, skeletons and skulls, vampires, cackling witches or other supposedly monstrous entities. These things aren't scary to me, and I doubt they really are to you, either. They're often gross, usually distasteful, almost always trite, expected and boring. But rarely ever frightening.

Eaton's art relies on none of these visual cliches, yet it still manages to create a sense of unease that's both seductive and disturbing. Viewing her work, I want to be in the scene so that I can get a better sense of what's going on. At the same time, I'm glad I'm not there, because it seems that something strange is just moments from taking place.

I encourage you to visit Kathleen Eaton's site, where you'll find many more examples of her work.

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