Humor, Angela Dufresne said, is a “better way to intervene with the world.”
Dufresne uses both humor and feminism in her paintings — figurative works with an offbeat element she describes as “wonk.” She’ll discuss her art at 7 p.m. tonight in the Hultquist Center.
This wonk manifests itself in vivid colors and a sometimes odd mix of elements — unexpectedly naked figures in snowy woods, for example, or the inclusion of a severed head in a painting that would have, otherwise, still been odd.
In addition to her paintings, Dufresne has also been making videos since the late 1980s, using them as drawing tools. They often feature her in her studio with her paintings, but the videos then sometimes inspire paintings themselves, closing the loop of media.
This mixing and complicating of categories is something that Dufresne seems to enjoy. In a recent article published in ART21 Magazine, titled “Irony, Sincerity … Is There a Third Pill?” Dufresne discusses the deconstruction of gender expectations and other categories in art.
“The art-world media places everyone into categories,” she wrote. “One is either provisional or rigorous, male or female, modern or post … (snore… [sic]) Oops, I fell asleep just writing that.”
Instead of strict dichotomies — in gender, art and life — Dufresne argues for an expansive party.
“Mushrooms have 18,000 genders; how do you build, let alone practice, social norms at that party?” she wrote. “You don’t. And that’s the kind of party — in some post-avant-garde, dystopian-utopian dialectic — I thought we artists were supposed to be throwing.”
Part of Dufresne’s influence comes from Chautauqua, where she studied in 1990.
“It was the first time I went away as a kid and just painted,” Dufresne said. “I’m still in dialogue with people I met there.”
Don Kimes, artistic director of Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution, remembers Dufresne from her time here as a student. He has followed her career over the last 25 years.
“[Dufresne] is one of the earliest generations of Chautauqua students I worked with,” Kimes said. “I do think it’s good to bring people in to show students that someone in their position can achieve some sort of success. [But] even had [Dufresne] not been a student at Chautauqua, I would have invited her.”