Avoiding any kind of analytical definitiveness and defying any formulaic qualities of being, the painting of Meri DeCaria assumes a liveliness of its own with a kind of stream of consciousness approach that is fresh, inventive and playful. While her work is immediately recognizable, sharing common elements that have the same personality and spirit, proudly declaring a single author, DeCaria is flexible enough an artist to explore a variety of tributaries from the stream of her artistic consciousness.
DeCaria received a graduate degree in fashion, a program where many elements of art and design merged. You can see the result in the variety of her compositions, each imbued with a strong graphic sense. “Way Out” is characteristic of her work, with its impressive graphic quality, bold color and a composition that seems to spin in a kaleidoscope of swirls and loops.|1| It is remarkable that she creates what she does with a free hand because all is as sharp and crisply rendered as if created mechanically.
While DeCaria’s work can appear centered on formalistic variations of forms and colors, they do frequently reference the natural world and even personal experiences. “Three and One,” a piece sharply divided into two parts, represents the death of a loved one.|2| Physically, the elements are utterly minimal yet when understood conceptually they compose an entirely new gravity and are seen through an entirely different emotional and cognitive lens.
The three green oval shapes in “Three in One” are formally similar to those found in “Elements” though here their use is quite different|3|. Using expert design skills and sharp ability to render fine line, DeCaria creates for the viewer a forest with the most basic elements. Large oval shapes bear only the loosest resemblance to leaves, but are given definition by the white-striped vertical band of brown on the right-hand side — a tree to the oval’s leaves.
More overtly representational is “Wise Bird.”|4| DeCaria paints this brightly-colored rooster-like bird against a violet background so all of the bright colors of the rooster “pop.” It is a creation of bright feathers, dark alpine green, pumpkin orange and papaya orange floating in a sea of mint green. The head is but a line gesture filled with green and a beady black eye with a long orange beak. Its subject matter comes from a different tributary but the strong design and eye-popping colors are definitely from the same. All is so simple, yet this rooster is bursting with personality. It seems as if there is no other of its kind, we are looking at one rooster, not a type or breed, but a real, strutting and proud rooster, that is both comical and yet assuming an air of absurd dignity.
DeCaria does not overburden her viewer with details; on the contrary, she delights and pleases with enjoyable sights and symbols, each unique and distinctive. And each piece is enough, just enough to give a sense of a fullness of a mood or a quality of being or awareness, enough to convey distinctive personality, enough to convey a loss or a memory full of emotion and gravitas, and enough to reveal a rich scene from nature that allows for a full sense of being with the barest essential elements that delight and please. It is a fun and charming art that does not condescend the mind by having to spell out each singular fragment of reality, but one that pleases it by lending just the elements needed to recall and to enjoy everything from a fullness of being to the reality of nature. It is smart art.
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Ehren Clark studied art history at both the University of Utah and the University of Reading in the UK. For a decade he lived in Salt Lake City and worked as a professional writer until his untimely death in 2017.