The public rooms of a home never have chicken wallpaper. Those rooms are reserved for parrots and tanagers. The chickens are reserved for the kitchen wallpaper. And chicken tschotschkes are kitsch.
But Eric Fausnacht’s chickens and roosters at Muse Gallery are birds of a different feather. In a way, his paintings and prints that seem to be reproductions of his paintings, make the case for chickens as dandies and grandees. Their plumage is spectacular, at least as Fausnacht paints feathers. And the cockscombs are baroque, looking more like the velvety flower of the same name than like my personal image of a cockscomb.
Just in case you missed his point (I asked in an email why he paints chickens and he sidestepped.), Fausnacht adds wallpaper like patterns–stripes and arabesques behind and sometimes over the birds. And he’s also thinking about their relationship to the paint in the ones he drips over.
The conversation between the extremely representational creatures and the paint and the patterns is a conversation about realism and painterliness, one worth having in the presence of such fastidious realism and a nice reminder that these are chickens that have been reinvented through the artist’s eye.
In a way, I think Fausnacht has found a place where academy-style painting has a voice in the contemporary conversation. (Fausnacht, after graduating from Millersville with a degree in art education, took course at both University of the Arts and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, according to his online resume).
The work reverberates with and against the airy pink paintings of Ann Craven, whose casual brushiness of colorful birds on their traditional branches seem to be more about feminine boudoirs and highbrow taste in decoration.
This is not Fausnacht’s subject, really. He is more about challenging that taste, capturing the not-quite-wild life in rather airless indoor settings–and perhaps masculinizing the decorative impulse. His birds stand on firm ground. After all, they are chickens.