Mary simpson
Libido of the forest

November 29 - January 06
Opening Thursday, November 29, 6 - 8 pm


Libido of the Forest presents a new body of work by Mary Simpson. A daily practice of drawing flowers over the past two years has evolved into her most representational paintings to date, taking inspiration from the work of Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as the feminist science fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin and the ancient Egyptian art that flourished under the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Simpson’s pastel-and-ink drawing Libido of the Forest (after Paul Klee), 2018, was inspired by a painting Klee made in 1917. The exhibition also includes a photograph taken in 1917 by Simpson’s great-grandmother of a wild snow-covered forest near the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Alaska, where Simpson grew up. Several small drawings in pastel and ink depict flowers in bold colors and sensual lines, while three 28-by-42-inch paintings in oil on canvas elevate the flowers to larger-than life scale.

Shortly after traveling from New York to DC for the 2017 Women’s March, I felt an intense desire to inhabit an earthy, infinite range of feeling, to cultivate a curiosity of fragility, sadness, grief, rage and death but also a sensual fervor of joy—experiments in imagination. I felt compelled to draw flowers, every day. To paraphrase Beverly Dahlen in her 2008 essay “On Beauty,” beauty is not required for aesthetics (if it were, beauty would function merely as a commodity); beauty is essential for life. “As we would wish not to be orphaned in the world, nor abandoned, nor abused, so we would wish ‘wholeness, harmony, clarity,’ not only for ourselves, but for the world we live in… The question of beauty is an ethical question.” To say that a daily practice of drawing flowers holds any element of activism might seem absurd. It is a very stupid thing to draw a rose. But balancing the brutal impacts of aggression with an unapologetic indulgence in beauty has, for me, felt completely necessary.

— Mary Simpson, November 2018


MARY SIMPSON (b. 1978, Anchorage, AK) has shown at Bortolami Gallery, On Stellar Rays, Rachel Uffner Gallery and Simone Subal Gallery, all in New York, David Petersen Gallery in Minneapolis, Almine Rech in Brussels, Hilary Crisp in London, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Boise Art Museum in Idaho. Her films, projects and lectures have been featured at venues including at the Artists Institute in New York, the Kitchen in New York, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, and CAM2 in Madrid.