In Dubious Battle
Shelley Reed recontextualizes imagery gleaned from art historical sources, typically combining elements from the work of such artists as Alexandre-Francois Desportes (1661-1743), Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755), Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695), and the later acutely observant horse paintings of Britain's George Stubbs. Reed's primary focus has been the rich vein of Northern European art from the mid-17th through 18th centuries, a period of enlightenment and profound interest in science, nature, and the animal world. Animals were assigned human traits (peacock : vanity; dog : fidelity), and nature itself was considered a symbol of God's providence – a commonly held belief within the stratified, gentry dominated social order of the time.
In the epic, heroically scaled, In Dubious Battle, an 11-panel painting, measuring 7 feet high by 47 feet wide, Reed creates a masterfully rendered, highly expressive narrative sequence, in which powerful, dramatic action occurs in the foreground, directly engaging and confronting the viewer. Working en grisaille enables Reed to unify the diverse visual elements associated with Netherlandish art and the numerous other historical concepts and images brought from different sources and other times. As she describes the process: It's a conversation with art history that touches on nature, power, aggression, and beauty.
Reed (b. 1958, New York, NY) lives and works in Boston, MA. She is a recipient of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Maud Morgan Award and a Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant. Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums and can be found in public and private collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Wellington Management Company, Boston; Fidelity Investment Corporation, Boston; the Hallmark Collection, Kansas City; the Lila Acheson Wallace Collection, Pleasantville, NY; Bank of Boston; the Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA; Danforth Museum, Framingham, MA; and the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA.