In Paula Henderson's fifth solo exhibition at the gallery - "Power Source: Adoration, Emulation, Transformation" the omnipotent female form takes center stage in a new body of work in which Henderson expresses our seduction into a media-driven, manufactured and commoditized idea of beauty by baiting us with the provocative forms she critiques. Culled from an ever-abounding supply of magazine advertisements, Henderson reappropriates and redeploys the various representations of glamorized, overly accessorized, rail-thin models into new, highly compelling and complex patterns to address her ongoing interest in our social patterning.
Henderson's work addresses the sanctification and objectification of illusory and elusive status symbols by drawing our attention to the meaning of seemingly insatiable, and unattainable forms of desire – or, as she calls it, the "cult of emulation", a more all-embracing term then simply the "cult of celebrity". Five-inch heels, three thousand dollar handbags, five foot eleven, one hundred and twenty pound women are packaged together as icons to both covet and emulate. But aren't they, as Henderson titles a series of work, merely "Eye Cons", identities constructed from the pages of magazines that deceive and perpetuate a kind of "distracted longing that cannot be satisfied?" The highly patterned paintings of the "Eye Cons" series suggest this idea in their insistent repetition of similar imagery, akin to the saturated, steady flow of goddess-like females plastered throughout the contemporary fashion world. Henderson's compositional strategies and techniques carefully exemplify media brainwashing strategies, our zealousness and willingness to submit to such manipulation, and our ultimate "transformation" into pseudo-"Transformers" – distorted by our quest, morphed into objects, not of our own making.
This body of new work, compels with its fantastic color and design, seduces with its usage of these embedded notions of beauty, as it alludes to the spiritual. Henderson's creation of patterning relates to the traditional feminine handiwork of sewing and clothes making. Hand-traced forms are redrawn and manipulated into mesmerizing patterns that reference everything from mandalas to constellations to textiles to Eastern Deity figures. Several new oil paintings, serigraphs and an installation entitled "Constellation" will be on display. In the latter, she creates, using silk-screened t-shirts of her own manufacture, a sort of canopy, which "links our once historical reliance on the night sky to locate ourselves, with the current fascination for "finding" ourselves following the "stars".
Paula Henderson received her BFA from the University of Massachusetts in 1972 and her MFA from the University of Chicago in 2004. She has exhibited throughout the United States, including recent solo exhibitions in the Museum of Contemporary Art's UBS 12 x 12, and the Union League Club Chicago. Her work is in the permanent collections of numerous private and corporate collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Drawing Center in New York's curated Artist Registry, Kirkland & Ellis, Deloitte & Touche, amongst others. Her work has been published in New American Paintings, Time Out, New City, Flavorpill and many others. This exhibit has been partially funded by an Artist Project Grant from the Illinois Grants Council. Henderson is Adjunct Asst. Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Liberal Arts Dept.