Artist challenges interpretations in BAU show
As much observer as creator, admirer of canonical works and deconstructor of them, Nataliya Hines is an artist who considers big-picture ideas.
Pulled in by master paintings and other works by the emotion they evoke and the questions they raise for her, she resets them in ways — through collage, watercolors and acrylics — that challenge interpretation. She never intends to diminish their power, she says.
Beginning May 13, Hines will share her latest works in a show at the BAU Gallery in Beacon. It continues through June 4.
Its title, Lazarus Taxon, references paleontology. A Lazarus taxon is a taxon — a classification for related organisms — that disappears and reappears in the fossil record. It also refers to species or populations that were thought to be extinct.
“I took pieces I had been exposed to and made them my own, figuring out what my visual language would be,” Hines explains. “This allowed me to study these pieces in a more interactive way. The first was [da Vinci’s] ‘Lady with an Ermine.’ I started recreating the piece with acrylic paint; I wanted to see how close I could get to the original. There was no pressure because this wasn’t a creative exercise, it was technical. That allowed me to think, ‘I wish I had made that. Oh — I can!’
“I thought about other pieces I was interested in, like Delacroix’s ‘Orphan Girl in the Cemetery.’ I thought about the choices Delacroix made — he’s a complicated character — and I wondered about ways I could recreate it in a more empathetic way.”
In this and other studies of women painted by men, Hines attempts to reflect an awareness, fueled by authors such as bell hooks and Laura Mulvey, of the influence of the “male gaze.”
None of this was front and center during Hines’ early days studying art. She attended the Long Island High School for the Arts and later the School of Art and Design at SUNY Purchase, where, in 2017, she earned a bachelor’s degree in visual arts with concentrations in printmaking and art history. It was in the process of silk-screening, she says, that she learned that “re-contextualizing the way a work is viewed alters its meaning.”
She was particularly attracted to intaglio, “because it connects to the way people worked in 16th and 17th centuries. It was a tangible way to interact with the material.”
After graduation, Hines moved to New York City, where she was offered a gallery show. Prompted by an image she saw on ESPN, it featured prints and drawings focused on hare coursing, a frequently banned “game sport” in which sighthounds chase a hare.
The show was popular and led to another the following year. Unable to afford a printing studio, Hines began painting again and decided to focus on the class ramifications of game sports. “In medieval times, the nobility would commission serfs to breed greyhounds and hunting dogs and they were instructed to disable undesirable dogs,” she explains. “Over time, it became illegal for serfs to own them, but they could breed their own litters from discarded dogs. That is how whippets, a smaller breed, emerged. They inadvertently created the fastest dog in existence. It lent itself strongly to putting together an allegorical type of work.”
After that, Hines suffered what she calls “art block.” She was drawn out of it by a 2022 commission to “paint a beloved Italian greyhound in the style of Klimt.” Of Slavic descent, more recently she’s “making more decorative things, trying to lighten up a little bit, inspired by the surrealistic imagery of folklore.”
Hines, who lives in western Connecticut, is relatively new to the Beacon Artists Union. “I had participated in two of their juried shows, in 2021 and 2022,” she says. “I was very interested in the model — artist-run, reasonable dues, everyone has a job, and it adds up to a traditional gallery. BAU has been great. I’m a housecat; without prompting, I will not seek collective activity.”
The BAU Gallery, located at 506 Main St. in Beacon, is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. See baugallery.org.