Elizabeth Shreve’s new body of work is an idiosyncratic collection of paintings representing the contradictions and challenges of our relationships to others and to ourselves. A psychologist turned painter, Ms. Shreve determinedly explores the regions of human existence which are often least pleasant. Using the deceptive illusion of all things beautiful and desirable for subject mattter, these are the subconscious regions which account for the innumerable incidents of insomnia, undesirable entanglements, disorder, despair, and self deprecation played out in the inner drama of life itself.
Shreve’s sumptuously painted canvasses are really journeys laying bare the introspective self, expressing a world that possesses her, a world filled with an awareness of the depth and complexity of the everyday engagement with life. Her vision is, in part, about a form of experiencing that feels and is open to a much broader range of human emotion; accepting pain, grief, and joy without the indulgences of judgment that limit not only our vulnerability, need, and fear but also our sense of realness.
Shreve’s central subjects are women surrounded by sumptuously lovely objects; objects both personal and unreal. Upon further examination of these images, one is likely to ask oneself analytically, “Do we really know the person who sits opposite us at dinner this evening? Do we really know the person in the chair in which we find ourselves sitting?” That we live largely just as invisible to ourselves as we are to others lies at the heart of all of the paradoxical themes encountered in these richly surrealistic scenarios. In the end, Shreve’s use of painting goes beyond surface beauty and attraction. Indeed, for her, it is about experience meditated on in a peculiar manner with the hope of sustaining genuine feeling and healthy selfhood despite the myriad of emotional dangers inherent in living.