Cardon, Shell: Synesthesia on Canvas

Shell Cardon: Hear with your Eyes – Visual Rock ‘n Roll
September 6 - October 13, 2007
Reception Thursday, September 6, 5:00 to 7:00pm

MM Galleries, 101 Townsend Street @ 2nd, Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94107, phone: 415.543.1550, Tuesday - Friday: 11am - 5pm, Saturday, 12pm- 4pm and always by appt.

No, synesthesia is not a fancy art term. It’s an involuntary condition that describes the phenomenon of attributing colors and personalities to numbers, days of the week or sounds.

Shell Cardon has not been diagnosed with this creative condition but the description of her artistic process and subject matter suggests that she is happily afflicted.

Shell’s paintings capture the simultaneous feeling of joy and mortality that you get in your gut when you think back to those seminal character-building “first” moments in your life: the first time you stood at the top of a diving board and gulped as your friends egged you on (High Dive), discovered the onomatopoeia of a comic strip’s “THWACK!” (Flash Gordon), tasted the explosion of watermelon candy in your mouth (Jolly Rancher) or heard your first earshock of the Stones (Gimme Shelter).

Her paintings beg to be touched. The layers of acrylic paint beckon like an orphaned inflatable toy in the swimming pool- same high gloss, same bold friendly vivid color, same plasticky pillowy surface.

You’ll immediately recognize the strong impact of 60’s pop art and op art in her work. Ellsworth Kelly and Andy Warhol are influences. Imagine Roy Lichtenstein’s signature benday dots viewed under a microscope.

Shell has taken a circuitous route to becoming a full time artist. Born into a family of “doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs” in a conservative Washington D.C. suburb, she attended law school after UCLA undergrad because that was what she was supposed to do. After graduating from Loyola Marymount she dutifully entered the practice of law.

But she exercised her creative side nights and weekends moonlighting for a decorative arts painter who she helped do elaborate murals in home interiors. This experience introduced her to what would later become her medium of choice, commercial latex paint.

After years of this rote, she came to her senses and quit the law. She chose to enroll in San Francisco’s Academy of Art in order to study fashion. There she perfected her figure-drawing skills and fully intended to become a fashion designer after graduation. (Gladys Perint Palmer, Executive Director of the Academy’s School of Fashion is a strong influence.) Although she didn’t end up in the business of fashion, this part of her artistic nature is thriving. Shell was short listed as one of the city’s three best dressed women by San Francisco Magazine in the September ’07 Fall Arts + Fashion issue.

She is a regular at independent G&R Paint on Sutter Street where she spends hours with the guys mixing the exact right shade and sheen of custom color. She doesn’t use brushes but instead pours the paint directly on the canvas. It is hard to imagine this diminutive figure leaning over a 4’x5’ canvas with a heavy paint can in her hands, perspiring in the heat of her L.A. studio and carefully allowing just a few tablespoons to stream out. Her pieces take ages to dry because the pools of color can be up to seven layers deep.

However her time consuming process, plus the capricious So-Cal humidity, do not slow her down her output. There is a wait list for commissions and her work is already featured in the art collections of many of San Francisco’s bright young things including Kimberly and Nicolo Bini, Alex Turner, Renee Singh, Alex Chases, Christina and Jad Dunning, Joel Goodrich, Charlot and Greg Malin and Jennifer Madjarov and Matt McCormick.

Shell’s new alliance with MM Galleries was chosen for many thoughtful reasons: its affiliation with (now departed) founder Michael Martin’s MMG Foundation which funds art programs in the public schools, her friendly rapport with the new co-directors Kit Schulte and Marina Cain and the gallery’s partnership with other San Francisco home-grown artists including Henry Jackson and Rex Ray.

Fortunately the Symphony has shifted its opening from its traditional Wednesday after Labor Day to later in the month. Now you’ll have plenty of energy to do both the opening of the Opera on Friday and the reception for Shell the night before, Thursday September 6th from 5:00-7:00 pm.