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Free of context and expectations: 'Minimally Charged' takes portraits into mental landscape

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
Jackie Hoysted's 'Virginia,' acrylic on canvas
Jackie Hoysted's 'Virginia,' acrylic on canvas
Jackie Hoysted's 'Lucretia,' acrylic on canvas
Jackie Hoysted's 'Lucretia,' acrylic on canvas
Jackie Hoysted's 'Going Places,' acrylic and pastel on paper
Jackie Hoysted's 'Going Places,' acrylic and pastel on paper
Jackie Hoysted's 'Deep in Thought,' acrylic and pastel on paper
Jackie Hoysted's 'Deep in Thought,' acrylic and pastel on paper
Jackie Hoysted's 'Thoughtful,' acrylic on paper
Jackie Hoysted's 'Thoughtful,' acrylic on paper

Jackie Hoysted of Gaithersburg, Md., is an artist fascinated with the human form and how to represent it.

On one hand, she says, she grapples with the question of how the artist should depict humans as living, breathing things, i.e. what does flesh look like and feel like? And on the other hand, there is the question of how to depict the human psyche, as in intelligence, moods, feelings and passion.

“I am not interested in achieving a likeness,” Hoysted insists. “I don't mind if I misrepresent form. I am only interested in humanness and not the particulars of a person.”

Just a cursory glance into the front window of Box Heart Gallery in Bloomfield will show why she is conflicted. Her solo exhibit currently on display there — ‘Minimally Charged: Drawings and Paintings by Jackie Hoysted” — also brings up another conundrum.

“I am experimenting with form and style,” she says. “I am drawn to the restful starkness and simplicity offered by minimalism but find more self-truths and identity in expressionism.”

The nearly two dozen paintings on display inside the gallery tend to marry these two styles by severely limiting the palette, confining mark-making to suggesting essential form and using a high key and garish palette to suggest mood and contemplation.

Thus, as in poetry, where a lot can be conveyed in stanza, or verse, Hoysted's art really delivers the maximum emotional impact with minimal color and bold black line.

For example, in “Thoughtful,” Hoysted was playing with the notion of nudity versus nakedness and masculinity. “Historically, figure-painting sought to treat nudity as something graceful and pure, but here I am more interested in highlighting this man's nakedness, his vulnerability, clad only in his delicate, thin skin,” she says about the piece, which is one of a few male figure studies on view.

Hoysted has painted him in a way that de-emphasizes his male physical strength and seeks to capture his pride and his inner resolve in spite of the nothingness around him.

“Deep in Thought” is another piece painted from a live model. “When I paint from the live model, I prefer not to know them personally so that I can imagine what kind of person they are or background they have,” Hoysted says.

The painting is of a middle-aged woman, and Hoysted says that when she painted it she had the impression that the woman “had lived many lives.”

“A sadness pervaded her,” Hoysted says. “She seemed to sit there carefully contemplating her life.”

Her body is rendered almost transparently to depict her trance-like pose and to emphasize her mental aura and not her physical presence.

Art history is fraught with paintings of women in reclining, inviting and submissive poses and when you join figure-painting groups, where you share the cost of hiring a model, there is a tendency to replicate these poses. To that end, Hoysted says, “There seems to be a learned consensus on how women should be depicted and how women really are in moments of repose or thoughtfulness.”

For a while, Hoysted ran her own figure-painting group with the objective of creating poses that were more contemporary. “One day, a motorbike was in the studio that I thought we could use as a prop to add context to the pose. Ironically, the group objected to it as not normal, not fitting in, not as women were seen,” she says. “The group were all women, we are conditioned.”

But out of that session came the piece “Going Places,” an evocative work that signaled new beginnings. “It gave me the opportunity to depict this girl setting out in her career as an opera singer making her way in life,” Hoysted says.

One of her more recent works, “Lucretia,” is less about the story behind the figure, and more about Hoysted's own view as to what she wants the piece to evoke.

“ ‘Lucretia' and my most recent paintings concentrate on what I want to say about women,” Hoysted says. “These works are intended to represent modern young women that are beautiful, sexy and strong, with minds of their own.”

Thus, they are depicted out of context, or rather in no context at all, so that they exude mental strength. However, Hoysted says, they are created in the context of the traditional female painting as subject, “as an object of sex and the receiver of the gaze.”

“In these paintings, the women direct and hold the gaze and mentally challenge the viewer to decide what they are really about,” Hoysted says.

To that end, the piece “Virginia” might be the quintessential example. The title is inspired by the movie “The Hours,” which revolves around how the lives of three women of different generations are interconnected through Virginia Woolf's novel “Mrs. Dalloway.”

“Each character represents a female shackled by the behavioral expectations of society and trying to break free,” Hoysted says. “My Virginia will do what she wants.”

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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