Art In America
Born in North Bay, Ontario, and currently based in Toronto, Holly Farrell has exhibited her realist paintings across Canada and in a variety of venues in the States. In her first show at Chase, the self-taught artist presented 22 small acrylic and oil-on-Masonite still lifes and interiors (all 2007 or 2008).
... Over the years Farrell has displayed an eye for the vintage, painting, among other objects, classic toy cars ("Dinky Toys") and a vacuum cleaner right out of a '50s appliance catalogue. This penchant for the old-fashioned continues unabated. Among the standouts in the Chase exhibition were depictions of five fashionable women's hats from an earlier era. In these vertical pieces (each measures 15 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches), the precisely rendered hats, with their pins, bows and veils, perch on stands and are set off by a background of decorative wallpaper.
... The show also featured a multipanelled painting of 12 different juice cups, each panel measuring 8 by 7 inches and all arranged on the wall in a grid. These are the kinds of items that show up in yard sales - the last of a set won at a carnival, perhaps, or acquired with a fill-up at an old Sunoco station. Farrell meticulously reproduces their simple patterns and motifs - stripes, daffodils, a kerosene lamp - and conveys their humble presence. Each casts a small shadow on a white wall.
... Since she began showing in 1995, Farrell has also depicted a range of bare-bones interiors furnished minimally - a folded-up cot, an unassuming kitchen ensemble. In Armchair (14 by 18 inches), a well-padded, dull-hued chair is a stocky and squat presence in a spare space with an off-white wall and wide board flooring.
... Whether she is intentionally nostalgic or not, Farrell plays on sentiment in her choice of subjects. Twin portraits of period Ken and Barbie dolls - he in football gear, she in a cheerleader outfit - evoke a kind of "Twilight Zone" eeriness: lifeless playthings that look as though they might start speaking. Whether a bowl or an arrangement of well-used children's books, whatever Farrell paints takes on a patina of history, personal and cultural. Yet you can read just so much into these paintings before backing off to simply admire the thoughtfulness with which each item is represented.
--- Carl Little
ART IN AMERICA MAR 'O9