The Paintings of Margaret Schnebly
It’s a remarkable achievement, and one that distinguishes Hodge as much as does her blend of bold chromatics, sharply dynamic compositions and, perhaps most arresting, the rich, painterly oil surfaces that add an undeniable visual appeal to even her most challenging, confrontational images.
In her most recent body of work, which first appeared in her 2005 “In Flux” collection, Hodge addressed the idea of veiling and, at the same time, revealing figures that are identifiable, but only tangentially, as human.
Like contemporary two-dimensional versions of Michelangelo’s iconic “Bound Slaves,” androgynous figures twist and pull against the picture plane in what strikes the viewer forcefully as a struggle. In “Inner City,” a large-format work from 2004, forms that seem almost to move in and out of space, that exist in a strange region defined by the artist’s ability to carve space into the gallery wall and, simultaneously, to extend it into the viewer’s space, teeter between the architectonic and organic and establish a balance between the two.
It’s an uneasy balance, however, and one that is fleeting; a vaguely delineated foreground figure seems to be projecting, literally, onto an imaginary canvas a jumbled, jangling overview of classical architectural history. Fading in and out of Hodge’s unusual space, almost tumbling into the viewer’s comfort zone, are monuments as Roman arches, amphitheaters and, strikingly, the sort of attenuated architectural frescos that lay safely buried for millennia under volcanic ash in Pompeii.
A similar partial figure underlies the dazzling flood of light and color that fill the upper registers of “Celebration” with transcendence, but its form is so nearly dissolved by the agitated lines and gestural brushwork surrounding its pale outlines that it suggests an emotion almost entirely interior, and personal.
Light, color and tangles of strokes enmesh the increasingly intangible figures of Hodge’s more recent paintings, electrifying in their abstract qualities and,as the inchoate forms begin to coalesce into recognizably human figures, provocative in their tactile and expressive duality, the viewer is engulfed and integrated within the living environment of the canvas created by artistic impulse.
The artist works intuitively rather than to fulfill a preplanned notion. The element of chance plays a large part in Hodge’s work; and is demonstrated in a most dynamic way in projects like her successful 2007 “Art in the Sunshine,” which brought together a random self-selected group of more than 100 artists who then recycled discarded election and real estate road signs into art for display along major roadways over a two month exhibition period. Hodge presented the project scope and outdoor venue concept on the internet and in news media, then allowed it to evolve on its own, relying on artists to just show up and create. The artists, including Hodge, created more than 300 works which were installed along 20 miles of roadway.
The same responsive process is at work in her paintings that probe and expand into implied space, that allow the idea of the human figure to bind itself and then, paradoxically, to wrestle with the webs, struggling to set themselves free or accept their conditions. Yet at each step, guided by nothing more definite than the sense of moving forward as her work evolves, takes shape and then shifts, endlessly, Hodge refuses to limit herself to one style, subject, theme or approach.
Her newest pieces make the leap from gallery wall into the viewer’s actual space, and perch precariously on slender metal supports, sometimes with wires strung between bars made taut by a visible suspension system, adding another dimension of tensions and balances. As in Robert Rauschenberg’s pivotal work of the 1950s, combines that were set free by a reliance on the aleatory and a desire to erase the lines between everyday and gallery life, Hodge draws from any source that fits her needs. But, while Rauschenberg famously stated that he acted in the gap between art and life, she makes no distinction; unselfconsciously and spontaneously creative, she leaves herself open to impulses that allow her to respond to the myriad influences around her, and to shape them into art.
~ Laura Stewart — Educator, Author and Art Critic ~