Selina Trieff



Selina Trieff has pursued figurative subject matter throughout her nearly fifty year career.   Called "an American original" by New York Times critic John Russell, Trieff generates allusively gripping figurative compositions, abstract images in oil & gold leaf, richly pensive, introspective, strangely self-like.  The canon of Trieff's work reveals an entrenched passion for the push/pull technique of painting she first learned from Hofmann. 


In her new work animals and figures again predominate as subject matter, and while her emphasis is still on the use of paint, the surface of the painting, and the composition, the figures here have moved into greater focus in a way that gives them dominance in the compositional relationships.  Still, Trieff creates passages of beautiful emptiness on her canvases.  Her use of color is luminous and jewel-like, bringing to mind medieval stained glass windows and early Renaissance alter pieces.  The gold leaf evokes the heightened spiritual presence in religious iconography.


Trieff's formally arranged figures are perfectly poised in a moment heavy with private emotion.  Always reserved, they have possessed a formality that seemed to offer them emotional distance, safety; but in this new work, still mute, the figures are struggling to express themselves. The exhibition includes a series of 12 x 12” highly colored oils on paper, created from drawings Trieff made while she was seriously ill and in the hospital last year.  For a part of that time, Selina was unable even to speak, and in these emotionally charged drawings and paintings, she expresses the terror of imposed silence.


The formal pose is melting; in one painting, the figure has clapped her hands to her mouth. The deeply expressive eyes seem to be calling out to the viewer.  One is attracted and held back at the same time. Trieff explains that the figures are indeed involved in a relationship with the audience, a three-pronged relationship -- the painter, the figure, and the viewer.  "The figures are guarded, but they are also vulnerable," she says. Like the artist in the harsh world of earthly experience, they are archetypal pilgrims wandering, searching for a homeplace.


Trieff goes back to the same format in her work, but each return is a very different experience, and in this series, the images seem to have been distilled to their essence, every mark essential, every color at its origin, the paint itself animated and speaking.

Born in Brooklyn in 1934, Selina Trieff studied with Hans Hofmann in New York and Provincetown, Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt at Brooklyn College, and Morris Kantor at The Art Students League.  Of her early experience at Brooklyn College the artist has said: "From Reinhardt and Rothko I learned that art is a philosophical exploration and that art making involves a mysterious process of self-discovery."


Trieff and painter husband Robert Henry spend summers in Wellfleet and winters in their native Brooklyn.  Both teach in summer programs nearby. Trieff's work has exhibited across the United States and in Europe, and is included in such public collections as the Brooklyn Museum, Kalamazoo Art Institute, Bayonne Jewish Center, Snite Center at Notre Dame, Citibank, New York Public Library, Best Products, and Provincetown Art Association and Museum.  She is represented in New York by Katarina Rich Perlow Gallery, and the Ruth Bachofner Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, in addition to Berta Walker Gallery in Provincetown.  She was recently the subject of a one-person show at the Long Beach Museum of Art in California and received a catalog grant for that exhibition from the Richard Florsheim Art Foundation.


 July 2000




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