A photograph of a young woman with long wavy blond hair standing outside.

Fall Artist Laura Burke

In Video Green, author Chris Kraus confesses to a period of loneliness in her life spent online “cruising websites for computer sex [and] driving around the countryside listening to Frank Sinatra Classic Hits and weeping (31).”

These songs cause Kraus to weep, because rather than a series of interchangeable and vapid online encounters, the songs evoke a world that reminisces in the nuances and idiosyncrasies of each lover. “The old Cole Porter songs,” Kraus writes, “evoked a world of specificity, where lovers were remembered for the hats they wore, the way they held a fork, their smile, rather than forgotten through the infinitely exchangeable signifiers of computer sex and porn.”

Laura Burke’s drawings and printmaking work expresses a similar disconnect in desire and experience. In the series of prints currently on view in WINDOWWALL, it is as though Burke is recalling the tiny details remembered of specific lovers and affairs. Each piece is composed of the elements of sex and dating that make up the notion known today as modern-day romance. This work is about the intense encounter, the casual one night stand, or the evening spent alone.

When the figure appears in Burke’s current work, it is always fragmented and solitary, and serves to record specific mannerisms: a tug at a shirt neckline, or a facial twitch. These moments are nested within a catalogue of objects that stand silent witness to each encounter.

Despite the attention to detail, Burke’s current work seems devoid of the syrupy-sentimentality evoked in the songs Kraus mentions. Instead, Burke’s work is executed with a kind of clinical-cool that reads as detached at first glance. Take for instance, “Me, Myself & I” where the topic of masturbation isn’t mute or taboo, but rather matter-of-fact. Yet, there are dead giveaways in this series as well, moments when things seems to splash and spill over. Take for example, the gushing paint swatches above a dried cup-ring stain set directly onto the printmaking paper on “Your Coffee Stain,” or how in the largest piece of the series, the blue triangle of paint bleeds across an intersecting line, rather than sitting contained underneath it.

Then there’s this: a tiny moment where static-electricity from the clear panel protecting the printmaking paper has trapped one lone strand of hair that sits coiled and pressed between the paper and this frame. It’s a detail that’s easy to overlook or pass over as a mistake, but I think it’s a vital key to the work to know that Burke left it there, rather than fight against the natural clinginess of the materials.

Laura Burke is a Portland-based artist and printmaker who received her BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art. Burke’s work will be on view in the salon this Fall 2016.

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