Nadine Boughton

Rugged Men

For Nadine Boughton, the American home is a frontier — the site of a boundary between wildness and domesticity, between mental life and the perceptions of others, between manners and urges, between the worlds of men and women, between manipulation and authenticity, between order and chaos, between archetype and cliché, and between the banal and the heroic. The frontier zone of the American home is a psychically dangerous place, where polarities contest over personal identity.

Since 2003, Boughton has used a digital process to compose collages of mid-century vintage materials. By placing disparate imagery into creative juxtaposition, she fashions witty, provocative narratives that engage and reveal the popular cultures and the psychologies of both the mid-century and contemporary eras. The collages sparkle with humor, surprise, and uncategorizable blends of fantasy and the familiar, and of darkness and fun.

Boughton uses popular print materials in a sociological mode to expose and question culture, to explore psychological themes, and to comment on accepted norms. Though she employs the methods and materials of Pop-Art, rather than the skilled hand of a painter or sculptor, her cowgirl art recovers territory seized and occupied by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and their ilk. In Boughton’s art, we find High Modern seriousness, sneaked in under the fashionable skirts of cynicism. Through her art, we can again experience the unabashed American sentiment of Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell, and the earnest pathos of melodrama. Through her art, we find again the like of classical mythological paintings and sculpture: characters from a story we all know, given sensual and tender individuality through an artist’s extraordinary skill, wresting sacred and ephemeral personhood from the raw mute materials of stone and paint — or of advertising and pulp. While other artists today are busy reenacting, reusing, and reanimating past vernaculars, pointing out again and again that our visual and intellectual worlds are chains of signifiers that often seem never to end, Boughton resumes our contact with the souls at the end of those chains. Life is not a cartoon.

Matthew Swift