All images are copyrighted by the artist Lora Shelley and may not be used without permission - All Rights Reserved
I gave a poetry reading at the Rosendale Cafe, Rosendale, NY, in August, 2001, as part of the Woodstock Poetry Festival. "How'd I do?" I asked my wife. "What? I'm sorry, I wasn't listening." She was looking. At a painting by Lora Shelley. Which we ended up buying on the installment plan, our first original work. I don't even know the title of this paint-story depicting a young girl in a green dress in a very old room. She stands before a mirror, but does not look into it, does not admire herself like I admire her daily when I step away from the machine that connects me to the Great World "out there" to study her tiny space and wonder if the Great World is actually smaller than her mind and what's inside it. Like most of the Shelley girls and women, her eyes are closed. Makes perfect sense to me now, for SHE knows what she looks like. But what thought so intense to grip this girl forever, and call me repeatedly from my desk to get up and watch her not-watching?
It's like that with so many of Lora Shelley's women: Erika; Medea; Diner Series VI; Ioana; Louisiana absently strumming her guitar (like Percy Shelley's "Constantia Singing" but not singing). All of these women lost in thought, unimpressed (or unconvinced?) of their own beauty even while Testing the Water, or Going For a Ride, or Thinking Out Loud, or simply looking out the window, like Kathy (who is not really "looking" for even her eyes are nearly closed to the world outside). Or pursuing a Labor of Love with one eye looking away from or perhaps toward labor, love, the viewer. Or "looking" into a Bathroom Mirror, with eyes shut, like the others. Wide eye-lids, oversized eyelids creating the impression of the "empty" sockets of Greek Statues. So many looking away, or miming the motions of looking, but with eyes shut, impervious to our importunate intrusions. As if in rebellion against seeing; rebellion against the World; rebellion against THE WORK itself, where, created, they must live the function of form, the artist's artifice.
Quite Platonic actually, quite Shelleyan (the poet was after all, a scholar/translator of Plato), these women, each as stunning and unapproachable as "Mont Blanc," impatient to rid themselves of genius, the creative imperative that yanked them from nothingness against their will and placed them in canvas-worlds of form and beauty. Impatient to be lost in profundity. To escape art's shapes, colors, shadows, and return to the peace and eternity of pure thought. To misquote and paraphrase Norman Mailer's assertion about William Burroughs, "Lora Shelley is the one artist working today who might conceivably be possessed by genius."