An Artist’s Altars to Unsung Women
Rendered in a rainbow of vibrant colors, Clarity Haynes’s portrayals of queer, heavy, and disabled bodies reimagines the white box as a communal space that allows for the possibility of healing.
– Christen Clifford
Installation view, Clarity Haynes: Altar-ed Bodies at Denny Dimin Gallery, New York. Foreground: Clarity Haynes, “Genesis” (2019), oil on linen, 58 x 52 in. Background: Clarity Haynes, “Grace” (2019), oil on linen, 62 x 62 inches (all images courtesy of Denny Dimin Gallery)
Altar-ed Bodies, Clarity Haynes’s first solo show in New York, introduces the artist as a major feminist presence to watch. Presented by New Discretions at Denny Dimin Gallery, in its attractive new Tribeca space, the show includes work from The Breast Portrait Project, a series of oil-on-linen paintings depicting nude torsos (all 58 inches tall and of varying widths), as well as new paintings of altars and small oil-on-board paintings and graphite drawings.
Scale is a critical aspect of The Breast Portrait Project. Haynes’s beautiful renditions of cis female, trans, and non-binary torsos take up space as a political act. The meticulously painted veins, scars, cellulite, and stretch marks detailed in the portraits evoke the hills and valleys of a landscape. They also represent a powerful network of bodily love, underscored by a lesbian gaze. The bodies become altars through their tattoos (skulls, moons, names) and jewelry (bits of coral, gold, silver); while paintings of actual altars feature bark, necklaces, feathers, shells, and a nipple sticker, a sly reference to censorship.
Installation view, Clarity Haynes: Altar-ed Bodies at Denny Dimin Gallery, New York; Left: Clarity Haynes Lion Altar (Summer into Fall) (2019), oil on linen, 44 x 60 inches; Right: Clarity Haynes, “Rainbow Altar (Spring into Summer)”
(2019), oil on linen 58 x 42 1/2 inches
Clarity Haynes, “Dilma” (2019), oil on board, 5 x 7 in.
Haynes’s portrayal of queer, heavy, and disabled bodies — the very bodies Tik Tok admitted to suppressing — rendered in a rainbow of vibrant colors reimagines the white box of the gallery as a communal space that allows for the possibility of healing.
In a culture — which includes the art world — where youth rules, capital is king, and paintings of nude women can sell for $170 million when the subjects are young, thin, and white, Haynes proclaims with her work that her subjects are equally meaningful. The canvases celebrate middle age while muted skin tones and lively accoutrements cry, “Glory be thy crone.”
We can project ourselves, our mothers, our grandmothers, and our great grandmothers onto Haynes’s paintings, transforming them into portals to a meaningful past, present, and future.
Clarity Haynes, “Altar Fragment, I” (2019), oil on linen, 11 x 14 in.
Clarity Haynes, “Brenda” (2019), oil on board, 5 x 7 in.
Clarity Haynes: Altar-ed Bodies continues at Denny Dimin Gallery (39 Lispenard Street, Manhattan) through January 25.
The gallery will host a poetry reading featuring Omotara James, Mel Elberg, Rahul Mehta, and Shelley Marlow at 6 pm on Friday, January 24.
A chapbook published by New Discretions in conjunction with the exhibition will be available at the reading.