One look at artist Lori Early’s work gives one the uneasy feeling of being watched, of being dragged by the soul, into the pain that is evident within the ethereal watery eyes of her always-female subjects. Though not all of her compositions are “dark” in nature (one work features an entirely pink background and female figure, reclining lithely, swathed in princess pink), all of her figures have a look in their eyes that screams of deeper meaning than just what immediately meets the viewer at first glance, a look that requests that the viewers of her art meet the subjects of her paintings within their world full of loss, but that their power is not denied in that recognition.
With larger-than-life eyes that speak of love, loss, inner shadows and the watery depths of souls caught in an emotional abyss, and their lanky, ghostly, impossibly long-necked forms, it is as if she were able to look into an alternate universe, and summarily capture it. It is one filled with the kind of beauty which speaks of a strength that can only be borne of struggle and adversity. In their swan-like forms, one feels as if, in simply viewing Early’s art, that the viewer is able to look not just into surreality of her female figures and forms which are the piece’s focal points, but into a disparate and disquietingly real world within the surreal, where pain and strength are equally represented and exaggerated.
Many of Early’s figures are bathed in cold light, in minimal-yet-elegant backgrounds of barren, trees, waiting for a spring that never will come, or swirling hallucinogenic mists, or the simplicity of a singular or monotone natural element, given to the artistic viewer as both an afterthought, and a seminal, central juxtaposition of meaning. In one work, a pink-haired, Victorianesque woman holds a lamb in a field full of seeding dandelions, bathed in a pink dawn; in a series of others, dragonflies are the naturalist feature within the painting. Early’s depictions of natural elements in her work signify singularity and consistency, while the women of her works represent a more complex and complicated truth. Where natural elements are not present, subjects recline on Baroque, Rococo or Belle Epoque furniture or flow in front of elements of sleek, gothic beauty in a kind of pop surrealism tribute to Art Nouveau and the Romantic era. All of these mixed elements somehow oppose and compliment each other in Early’s work, making it at once, more meaningful than the sum of its elements. No matter what the background, her figures state their power while languishing in the simultaneous frailty of their forms. Lori Early’s place in the American pop surrealist movement is obvious and concrete, but she retains a style that no other artist is able to capture or imitate. All of her works have a signature style that is inimitable, uniquely hers, and an undeniable part of the new dark ethos of current American art.