Margo Selski’s paintings — with ball gowns made of eyes, braids of hair with agency of their own and the pointiest feet you’ve ever seen — look like the stuff of fairy tales. This is not totally false. Selksi was inspired by “The Tempest” and “Prospero’s Book of Mirrors.” Yet these fanciful and mysterious other worlds are not the product of pure imagination; Selski paints true stories of family secrets from her Kentucky youth. We seriously wonder what her family reunions are like.
To protect the privacy of her family members, Selski translates real secrets into a surreal visual language, drawing off Flemish 19th century portraiture. Yet her paintings look as if Jan Van Eyck took a little trip down the rabbit hole. Roosters and baby lambs crawl out from underneath petticoats and even the smallest of children are followed by ominous shadows. The distance from Kentucky to Flemish fantasyland is far indeed. We wonder how closely rendered the family secrets are…
Her works incorporate novel techniques to achieve an old (or even outside of time) effect. In an e-mail to The Huffington Post, Selski wrote that she concocted a recipe for fake craquelure, smearing her paintings with beeswax and then freezing them in a Chinese restaurant’s freezer. She then paints inside the frozen cracks in the beeswax to mimic Renaissance paintings that have cracked with age. Another trick up Selski’s sleeve involves embedding a ghostly under-image into her painting. She created her own paint that decays over time, thus revealing new things about the painting over the course of 10 years. Even the paintings’ secrets eventually come to light.
Check out Selski’s surreal paintings and see if you can solve her family mysteries.