Alfred Hitchcock and Johannes Vermeer both took great delight in peeling back veneers of suburban order to capture intimate moments, exposing the vulnerability of domesticated middle class life. Elizabeth Livingston’s most recent body of work evokes all the same cinematic emphasis on visual scrutiny, moments of false security, and entrapment by employing hyper-detailed patterns of juxtaposed fabric to adorn her subjects against stark planes of color and narrative light. There is a shared suspense in these voyeuristic moments, a sense of the quiet before the storm or the last rays of dusk light before night falls.
As Livingston explains, “[the paintings] are both safe houses and defenseless outposts about to be consumed by night.”
This ominous undercurrent of isolation is both palpable and intentional in her most recent work as well. In “Night Fell”, the title work of the exhibition, we glimpse a dim glow of light from the porch of a quaint two floor home that is both inviting and fragile, stable but vulnerable, and surrounded by the obsessive detail of the lush encroaching rural landscape.
As described in her own words, “In more recent work I’m pulling back from the figure, to focus on exterior views of a larger scene. In these paintings, the figure is no longer visible, but a human presence is clearly felt through dimly lit windows. A small country home at dusk with the porch light on reads both as a safe house and as defenseless outpost against the dark woods surrounding it. The tension in this divergence, to me, is a reflection on how beautifully fragile our lives are.”