|Page and her vibrant “Summer Series,” which hangs between the doors of her Warehouse District gallery; the Lafayette native, 29, has already emerged in the vibrant New Orleans contemporary art scene as a noteworthy abstract expressionist.|
Lafayette native Mallory Page is swiftly ascending the contemporary art world.
By Lisa LeBlanc-Berry ~ Photos by Robin May
July 11, 2012
|Paintings from Page’s “Astral Series” fill a wall in her New Orleans gallery.|
Lafayette native Mallory Page has recently emerged in the vibrant New Orleans contemporary art scene as a noteworthy abstract expressionist. The 29-year-old began painting only seven years ago — and has already gained national acclaim.
Often, young artists are quite laconic and tenaciously attempt to obviate interpretation. Page, on the other hand, enables the viewer to glean more about the creative process. She seems to be consciously drawing upon inspiration from her environment: a song, the ocean, a mood. Therefore, painting for her appears to be an act of translation. She does not represent the world around her in a figurative mode. Rather, she actively channels thoughts that bear some resemblance to reality and transforms them into non-figurative abstraction.
Her soothing, pastel-hued paintings combine both the “color field” and “action painting” (gestural abstraction) styles associated with the abstract expressionist genre. Page seems to be the odd offspring of Helen Frankenthaler and Cy Twombly, two world-renowned artists of the abstract expressionist movement who happened to both die in 2011.
|The interior of Mallory Page gallery and studio, which has been open two years|
Frankenthaler was known for her use of diluted paints, which she would pour onto unprimed canvases. Twombly’s work, replete with pencil scribbles and little else, is often characterized by its “childish” energy. Page’s work appears to incorporate both Frankenthaler’s manner of applying paint and Twombly’s scribbling.
She’s among the emerging contemporary artists breathing new life into a movement that began in New York in the ’40s and ’50s with such artists as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann and Adolph Gottlieb.
Abstract expressionist art, in all its varied stages and forms, is retaining its continued presence in the global art scene.
According to William Andrews, director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Page is a good example of the growing contemporary art scene in New Orleans that invites robust participation by such emerging abstract artists.
“Her paintings speak to a broader idea of contemporary abstraction because of the dialogue between the paintings and how they relate to one another,” he says. “I think collectors are drawn to her work because there is an immediate appeal that is engaging, but there is also confidence in structure, craftsmanship, imagery and narrative, even though it is wholly abstract.
“An interesting development in New Orleans, though not necessarily recent, is the artist-run gallery that may also serve as a studio and exhibit space,” Andrews continues. “This adds tremendously to the vitality of the artistic community of New Orleans, which is why we are seeing such a large influx of artists from New York City.”
Two years ago, Page moved from her home town of Lafayette (after a sojourn in the Florida panhandle), and opened Mallory Page Studio on Julia Street in the heart of the New Orleans Arts District. “It is primarily a studio where I paint, but it also serves as a gallery,” she says.
“Being involved in the New Orleans art scene has been incredible. I’ve been blown away by the people who come in, and also the neighborhood. I’ve been working recently with a couple of New York designers that I met through my gallery, and also through Phoebe Howard. A lot of the design developments have trickled down from Phoebe.”
A leading interior designer and the proprietor of Mrs. Howard/Max & Company in Atlanta and Jacksonville, Howard became familiar with Page through design and art consultant Jeffery McCullough. He has represented Page since becoming an admirer of her work in Lafayette in 2009.
“I am drawn to Mallory’s paintings because they have a watery, three-dimensional quality that is at once complex and simple,” says Howard. “Her color combinations are so fresh and can help bring any room up to date.”
|The Julia Street gallery, above, also serves as Page’s studio, where she is still at work on “Untitled Rose.”|
An interior design graduate of LSU, Page intrinsically comprehends the complexities and aesthetics regarding the elements of interior design far better than most of her contemporaries.
“It is undeniable that I am an artist, but I also remain passionate about design,” she admits.
Since McCullough’s introduction to Howard, Page has become the darling of top designers and decorators from coast to coast. Bunny Williams, a leading interior designer based in New York, not only collects but also selectively uses Page’s work in some of the grand residences she fashions.
“I am drawn to Mallory’s use of color and layers that produce an ethereal quality that is rare in a young artist,” Williams says. “I believe it is very important to support young artists, and I now have a piece by Mallory in my personal apartment in New York, and have used a large piece for a client as well in a late 18th-century federal style home.”
“The calm and soothing mood found in many of Mallory’s pieces is well-suited to the feeling we seek to achieve in our interiors,” says Paige Schnell of Tracery Interiors in Rosemary Beach, Fla., and Birmingham, Ala.
Page is quick to reveal that she never anticipated a career as a painter, even in her dreams. Her serendipitous foray into the art world began when she was asked to create several abstract paintings for a client in Lafayette. She first exhibited her paintings at Tsunami on Jefferson Street.
The paintings sold rather quickly, much to her surprise. One canvas led to another, and Page felt compelled to continue. “The paintings just started to happen. I never dreamed I would ever have a career as a painter,” she says. “Once it hits you, you just can’t escape it.”
As luck would have it, Page met McCullough by chance during a Lafayette Decorator Show House, where several of her borrowed paintings were on view. “I knew that I had just seen the work of a brilliant artist, and I realized immediately that I was discovering someone who could really be big one day. I knew I could get her a much broader audience,” McCullough notes. “Her work needed to be on a bigger stage.”
Shortly after McCullough began representing Page, he circulated her paintings to a variety of galleries and designers in several states.
“So, all of a sudden, Mallory’s work was exposed to top interior designers throughout the U.S. They began to take notice of her talent. She needed to work in an urban environment such as New Orleans, so the opening of her studio on Julia Street was an excellent career move,” McCullough says.
Page’s work subsequently began to garner widespread media accolades following her move to New Orleans.
Most recently, one of her paintings was featured in a June 2012 Architectural Digest daily blog about interior designers in Atlanta — this on the heels of two recent highly successful exhibitions in Lafayette and New Orleans that were favorably heralded by the local press.
Page modestly acknowledges that the genesis of her career as a painter remains rooted in Lafayette, where she grew up. “My biggest collectors to date are Dr. John Storment and his wife, Amelie,” she remarks. “They now have 23 of my paintings. Most are exhibited in their Lafayette offices. Their continued patronage actually helped me in my decision to open the New Orleans studio on Julia Street.”
|Dr. John and Amelie Storment of Lafayette hang a painting by Mallory Page in his office, which now features more than 20 pieces. “My patients comment all the time how relaxing her work is and how that sets our office apart from a typical medical facility,” Dr. Storment says.|
“We met Mallory at a River Ranch arts festival and saw her work,” Dr. Storment recalls. “Initially, we intended to purchase only one piece, but saw a great opportunity to have her play a bigger part of my office décor.
“She met with us to first understand what type of patients I treat. She recognized that patients are often stressed and anxious about being there and used that type of information for inspiration in her paintings,” he continues. The office, located on East Farrel Road, now has more than 20 pieces hanging on its walls. “Each piece is unique, but they give a nice, common thread that links all parts of the office,” Storment adds. “My patients comment all the time how relaxing her work is and how that sets our office apart from a typical medical facility.”
Other devoted collectors of Page’s work include Jeff and Mary Simpson, who reside on Park Avenue in New York City.
“Jeff and I are known as lovers and collectors of art,” Mary Simpson says. “On a recent trip to New Orleans, our nephew’s wife suggested that we visit the galleries on Julia Street, especially the Mallory Page Studio. We met Mallory and instantly became fans of her work.”
The Simpsons’ sizeable “investment collection” in their various homes primarily consists of 20th century modern and contemporary visual artists including Matisse, Picasso, Twombly, Nevelson, Kline, Stella, Kahn and Dine, to name a few. “We have also been proud to acquire works by emerging artists, in the earlier days of their careers.
“In our view, Mallory’s brush strokes have the strength of Franz Kline, and her use of color is soft and alluring like Wolf Kahn,” she continues. “In addition to being very talented, Mallory is beautiful and energetic. Her passion for art is obvious and her enthusiasm to share it is contagious. We are certain Mallory is at the beginning of a brilliant artistic career.”
On Aug. 4, Page will be staging a new exhibition at her gallery on Julia Street in conjunction with the annual Whitney White Linen Night, which is held from 6-9 p.m. at more than 20 galleries in the Arts District and followed by a soirée at the Contemporary Arts Center from 9 p.m. until midnight. For more information on the artist’s works, visit www.mallorypage.com.
Lisa LeBlanc-Berry is an independent journalist and the editor-in-chief of Our Louisiana Magazine. Her first book about the art of interior design, Ma Maison: At Home With Beth Claybourn (RW Smith Publishing, $75 hardback) is being released in the fall.