“Billie” is a series of recent abstract paintings by Blanche Nettles Powers. The artist’s studio practice is centered on experimentation and discovery, engaging with materials in an improvisational manner. Swatches of textiles and images of handwoven carpets are used as source material, as an entry-point into the painting. Thin layers of oil paint are applied and worked into the linen, emphasizing the irregular weave and rough nubs of the surface. Layers are scrubbed away and new layers reapplied. Overtime a translucency develops. Initial marks, made with rags, brushes and pours, rise to the surface and intertwine with fresh marks, creating a new warp and weft. This method allows the artist to consider her feminine identity and the tradition of working with textiles, while examining concepts of time, decay, and renewal.
The surfaces of the paintings are thin and translucent like aging human skin. The viewer is able to see through the uppermost layer and view the nuanced composition. Drips and pools of paint on the edges reveal bits of history. Each work is in a vertical, portrait format. The larger paintings in the series are human scale, inviting the viewer to enter the space and reflect in a meditative manner.
As a synonym of identity, the title of each painting is a name. She has chosen names of women who happened to be on her radar during the making of the artwork. Some names are fictional characters, while others are women from current events, journalists, novelists and artists. In titling this exhibition “Billie” the artist is acknowledging her roots and embracing her southern identity. ‘Hillbilly’ has a derogatory connotation, whereas ‘Billie’ means strength and determination.
BILLIE – Billie Holiday, Billie Jean King, Billie Eilish
ZINAIDA – Zinaida Krutitsky, fictional character from The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin by P. D. Ouspensky
MARSHEA – Marshea Jones from current events in Alabama shooting
EDNA – Edna Mode from PIXAR’s animated superhero films The Incredibles and Incredibles 2
STACEY – Stacey Abrams ran for Governor of Georgia
AWKWAFINA – Lead actress in the movie “The Farewell” directed by LuLu Wang
ANNI – Textile artist Anni Albers