Michèle Fenniak’s enigmatic paintings of people in undefined, mysterious settings speak to the ambiguity of personal experience and the tenuousness of social order. The stories, or narratives, in this ambitious artist’s work are frequently indefinite and always obliquely expressed.
Canadian by birth, Fenniak attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where she later taught drawing, as she did at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, her present residence. Her work was included in the formidable works on paper exhibition at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle titled A Decade of American Contemporary Figurative Drawing and is in collections at Arkansas Arts Center, and Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Florida. She has earned her MFA from Yale University and is a recent recipient of the Pollock-Krasner grant.
Michele Fenniak’s recent work combines imagery from many sources, real and imagined, to create impossible synthetic landscapes. The artificiality of these landscapes is explicit. Scale relationships don’t always fit together and viewpoints do not quite make sense. Tiny buildings and places are found throughout each piece. Some of these vignettes are recognizably contemporary and naturalistic, but others are historical, or edge toward the surreal. These incongruities suggest that the vast spaces pictured in the works might actually be quite small, like a model or explanatory illustration.