Young June Lew fleshes things out | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Young June Lew fleshes things out

With "Everyday Saints," the artist finally puts people in her paintings of clothes



Back in the aughts, painter Young June Lew created multiple series depicting empty clothes. For "Anima, Animus" (2005) the subject was robes and gowns suggesting imperial China or Renaissance Venice. Similar deal with "Memory Work" (2008). Now, for her new show, "Everyday Saints," she's filled the vestments with people. Nobody in particular—just anonymous humans wearing doleful expressions. Though the heads have a medieval look, like something you might find in an illuminated Bible, Lew's saint-selection process was apparently little-c catholic: "I see very clearly the immanence of god in all faces," she says.

And yet some of these characters don't even have faces. In Everyday Saint 11-7, a blurry, semi-abstract visage streaked in chunky white brushstrokes betrays only the smallest hint of a frown. And maybe a set of eyeglasses. The saints are mostly solitary, but sometimes they're placed alone together. Everyday Saint, for instance, comprises a row of seven diptych portraits. The piece is less abstract than 11-7—each saint's head is covered in a black cap and looks like it could've been carved from stone. Despite their proximity, there's no hint of intimacy among the seven subjects. They look past or around one another. Other images are somewhat more optimistic, especially those in which the saints' hair is done up in gold. They look like they've got accidental halos.

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