“Under the spell of false light, the foolish act out their proverbs of folly” – Kenneth C. Lindsay
Landon Bailey Higgins’s first solo show ”Proverbs of Folly” is linked to both his own life and art historical movements. Throughout his work, Higgins blends traditional old master technique and the pop culture icon of a gummy bear with careful combinations of glowing colors and raw sexuality.
Higgins’s current paintings present gummy bears existing in spaces flooded with theatrical light and color. Inspired by the glow of Vermeer’s (Dutch, 1632-1675) flesh, Higgins uses the traditional technique of a grisaille underpainting, layering thin transparent glazes to reflect light back at the viewer. Though the narratives often tell of disconnection, longing, and dysphoria, the paintings maintain a playful essence reminiscent of adolescence, pleasure, and innocence.
From weighing his guilt and appeasing his ambition, Higgins describes to the viewer how he carefully shaped himself for mass consumption, and protected his reputation with a tenacious congeniality; a sweetened, comforting facade of innocence. In these whimsical yet tender narratives, the gummy bear functions as a vehicle for self-identification, exploration of light, and infusing scenes of deplorable isolation with light-hearted humor.
These seemingly limitless spaces in which the bears exist are represented by brilliantly colored gradients. The vibrant vast space surrounding the figures begins to create parallels with abstract color field painting referential to Mark Rothko (Latvian-American, 1903-1970); these smooth transitions of color visually display the liminal space between worlds, proposing choices paired with unknown consequences on either end.
Hopeful yet insurmountable fantasies are embedded throughout Proverbs of Folly. Lone figures drenched in light evoke a longing for connection, both physical and emotional. Trailing shadows filled with color become sentimental in this realm of immense detachment.
In the show’s title piece, Proverbs of Folly, a centrally positioned golden colored bear is depicted radiating a secular light while being surrounded by sexually engaged red and blue bears serving as an example of righteousness. Showing intimate acts as a singular golden figure peers in is Higgins’ way of illustrating his own longing for connection within the riddle of managing life as a gay teen in a conservative, Christian, environment where acts of intimacy are reserved for others.
Brought to life by Higgins’s technical prowess, the iconic mass-produced form of the gummy bear actively serves as a symbol for contemporary subjects, including gender, sexuality, and pop culture.
Landon Bailey Higgins has an exceptional ability to process light, shadows and utilize the oil painting medium to completely take over the space. Higgins produces a unique grandeur in his work with deliberate simplicity; a remarkable feat for an artist of such a young age.
”No possible set of notes can explain our paintings. Their explanation must come out of a consummated experience between picture and onlooker. The appreciation of art is a true marriage of minds. And in art as in marriage, lack of consummation is grounds for annulment” – Mark Rothko,