Mollie Freeman is an artist who adores dance. While many artists represent ballerinas in their work, Freeman's paintings stand apart strictly for the close attention she pays to the motors of her figures and how their weight-lifts embody musical rhythms. Freeman's unusual facility stems not only from her adept technique as a painter, but also her intimate study of dance forms.
Freeman's treatment of the subject in Songs of Deliverance , on view at LA Coppersmith Gallery, brings to mind Edgar Degas which countless depictions of ballerinas occupy a coveted space for art lovers. This comparison is not without departures as Freeman's style revels in abstraction, somewhat distinct from Degas. However, the two artists' affinity stems from a shared curiosity about the process of dance and a faithful eye that refuses to be seduced by ballet's illusions of effortless perfection. Freeman diligently focuses on capturing ballerinas in the middle of executing combinations sur la pointe (on their toes) – an arabesque allongee when the line of the body is roughly parallel to the floor or an arabesque penchee when the dancer leans down to the ground to form a line declining from the raised back foot to the outstretched hand or hands.
Freeman acknowledges numerous influences. She sets her dancers in a deliciously timeless space surrounded by colorful haloes that provide visual reminiscences of reverberating soundwaves. This imaginative back points to her fondness for early modernism, in particular the work of Austrian Jugendstil artist Gustav Klimt who obsessive pursuit of mosaic-like patterns in his Golden Phase works such as The Kiss (1907-1908) continue to inspire Freeman. Another pivotal influence on Freeman is German Expressionist Emil Nolde, one of the founders of the revolutionary expressionist group Die Brücke (The Bridge). On a recent trip to Germany, Freeman saw an exhibition of Nolde's Unpainted Pictures (1938-1945), a series of small, visionary watercolors that the artist painted in the seclusion of his home after the Nazis had confessed his works and he had been forbidden to paint. Klimt and Nolde both played with the unexpected – bizarre yellow faces and purple landscapes, intriguing bordering on unnatural positioning of heads and limbs. In this vein, Freeman imaginatively pushes borders and challenges us to see beyond the predictable.
Freeman studied at the Kansas City Art Institute when it was not uncommon for professors to dismiss female art students. Professor Wilbur Niewald was an exception. According to Freeman, “He taught me to embrace my uniqueness, to learn what my eye had to offer, to work from a place of strength.” Freeman explored the late figure work of Matisse and Cezanne and recognized that the abstractions in these works drew their success from being rooted in a solid understanding of light, form, and the figure. This catalyzed her method of working from life, but pulling out the essence of the painting – the light, the color, the movement.
Freeman continues to explore her passions. Two of her five children are dance instructors and Freeman herself recently decided to learn how to dance. A spiritual person, Freeman also creates what she calls “worship painting” in churches spontaneously inspired by the music performed during services. According to Freeman, “The wonderful thing is how people interact with it. As a member of this community, come see Freeman's art for yourself at LA Coppersmith Gallery.