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Jeff Muhs: The Origin of Nymphs

Showing at Lyons Wier Gallery are the icon-infused works of Long Island native Jeff Muhs.

Aptly named The Origin of Nymphs, these large works are part of a larger series Muhs is developing entitled Another History. When approaching the Gallery, and at first glance, these luscious, richly-painted canvases seem to be enlarged, out-of-focus photographs of some of Art History’s familiar iconic paintings.

Each of these works has a graphic composition, utilizing a flat field of strong color on a portion of the canvas, which functions as a curtain being pulled aside to reveal a familiar figure from art history. Mostly featuring the female form, each image is quite familiar, and yet hazy like a distant memory that is just becoming clear.

The large canvases are richly painted with layers of thick oils, which are then sanded after each layer is finished. The works are then glazed and buffered with an automobile sander, giving the surface of the canvas the appearance of glass: flat, smooth, almost reflective.

Muhs, a classically-trained painter with a variety of mature styles, has chosen an interesting intellectual tangent in his effort to create this collection of fuzzy masterpieces. It’s a strong statement on beauty and iconography, offered up for his contemporary audience to contemplate: why are certain images remain etched in our collective mind.

According to Muhs (also see statement below), this concept came to him while at the Louvre standing in front of Ingres signature work La Grande Odalisque, trying to deconstruct the myriad elements which made this piece a timeless testament to the stylized female form.

Muhs’ fascination with how the cultural psychology of the past can still resonate with contemporary viewers is the underlying armature that make this show an enjoyable exhibit to experience on several levels.

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