Walker’s paintings can stand upright or protrude from walls. Viewers can see both sides of this untitled work (above, front side) on a table. (Maria Walker)
Walker twists and manipulates her canvases, and often opts for unconventional frames (above, the back of the same untitled work). (Maria Walker)
(Maria Walker)
Walker paints both the front and back of the canvas. “There is not a hierarchy of either side,” she says (above, another untitled work). (Maria Walker)

This Reversible Painting Flips Your Expectations of Art

A painter looks at her canvas from a new perspective

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Flip this artwork over, and you’ll find another kaleidoscope of pastel hues stretched over a raw wooden frame. The canvas of Untitled (Reverse) is cut to create flaps, some attached to what looks like the front of the frame and some pulled around to the back. “There is not a hierarchy of either side,” says Maria Walker, a Brooklyn-based artist who views paintings as three- dimensional objects rather than surface images. Her goal: to create sculptures out of the raw materials. She twists and manipulates the canvas, often opting for unconventional frame shapes and, in this case, applying primer sparingly so that the paint seeps into the canvas. While many of Walker’s pieces stand upright or protrude from walls, giving gallery visitors a fuller view, Untitled (Reverse) hangs flat, hiding one half. This “creates a tension,” says Walker, making the viewer wonder, “What’s on the other side?”

About Kirstin Fawcett
Kirstin Fawcett

Kirstin Fawcett reports on the collections, exhibitions, new research and other happenings around the Smithsonian Institution.

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