Arts

Galleries | Cate McQuaid

Bryan Christie takes the human body to unexpected places

Bryan Christie’s “Of Your Presence Just Passed”
Bryan Christie’s “Of Your Presence Just Passed”

It wasn’t until he saw Michelangelo’s “Pietà” that Bryan Christie was moved to become an artist. He didn’t become a sculptor — his works at Matter & Light Fine Art combine digital wizardry with the ancient technique of encaustic — but his aim has Renaissance roots: to convey the spirit in the twists and contours of the body.

Working in virtual space, Christie poses an anatomical model as if it were Yoga Barbie. He takes snapshots of the model from all angles, and prints up to a dozen on silk chiffon. 

Then he moves into painterly mode, sandwiching the images between layers of beeswax. Ink mingles with hot wax. Bodily forms, already abstracted by layering several viewpoints, smudge and fade. The body becomes a smoldering pretzel emerging from and receding into veils of silk and wax.

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A steamy, head-shaped form with wiry horns, and circles at either shoulder looms in “Divine Discontent,” with ember red couched in smoky black where a mouth would be. This might be a Picasso minotaur rendered in a fiery sfumato

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But look closely. You’ll see the horns are legs, and suddenly it’s a figure in a shoulder stand. A mask of God morphs into a contorted human. Abstracting the body, Christie anchors his images in the familiar, but their shape-shifting creates a tug of war between known and unknown, quotidian and mystical.

In “Of Your Presence Just Passed,” a green and amber vault of bones arcs high above a swirling pool of blue. A yellow glimmer beckons there, the end of a watery tunnel. Two jellyfish-like sacs open like eyes, and the image coalesces into a gnomish visage.

That yellow light stays with me. I don’t know what the artist’s luminous chutes literally depict; they come where his pigments, and the anatomy they describe, are densest and darkest. Here, too, flesh lends itself to metaphor, and the embodiment of a spiritual conundrum. As Victor Hugo wrote, “What makes night within us may leave stars.” 

BRYAN CHRISTIE — EVERY ANGEL IS TERROR

At Matter & Light Fine Art, 450 Harrison Ave., through March 31. 857-990-3931, www.matterlightfineart.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.