Hester Simpson

March 2002

Initially, Hester Simpson’s colorful, small abstract canvases (most measure a mere 8 by 8 inches) appear almost too precious. Even their titles evoke romantic images of childhood. Lucky Baby, for instance, features red over layers of yellow and other warm hues, conveying the vibrancy of a happy infant; Morning Child consists of pale blue vertical stripes, reminiscent of a little boy’s pajamas; Angel Baby, with its pretty shades of pink and green, evokes innocence and gentleness.

While their palette and simple compositions may recall madras shorts or tartan-plaid kilts, the paintings also conjure the work of Josef Albers in their explorations of the effects of color. In Crush Simpson effectively uses layers of matte, nearly fluorescent oranges (with other primary colors underneath) to express the intensity of teenage lust in an extremely minimalist image. The bright, unnatural orange soda also called Crush, to remind us of adolescent tastes. And Place of Birth is a moving memory of a bucolic homeland, represented in shades of green suggesting grass and lush landscapes.

Simpson breaks out of her own mold, as well, and when she does, she creates elegiac works that are even more affecting in the context of the cuter canvases. Wake, for example, consists of horizontal lines of dark reds that look like congealed blood painted over peaceful, sealike colors; this piece is a haunting tribute to the victims of September 11. –Reena Jana