Jane Eifler: Spare Parts
February 24 - March 31, 2018
Opening Reception: Feb. 24th, 6 - 8pm
Artist Talk: Mar. 3rd, 3 - 5pm
Essay by Casey Arguelles Gregory
Jane Eifler finds expression in the quirky and offbeat places in a painting or collage. Her work is specific and her color precise, but there is an intriguing looseness as well, a casual confidence that lends her work an almost accidental feeling. Underpinning all of Eifler’s toppling or wonky forms or unexpected color relationships is a keen and individual eye. The looseness isn’t incidental, because it’s there in each piece, pulling our eyes through Eifler’s exuberant visions, collisions of color and shape that are both improbable and delightful. They are the sharps and flats of the visual spectrum, rendered in joyful tones.
Eifler came of age in the abstract expressionist period, a “straight art major” at a moment when women were only nominally tolerated in the field. A comparison can be drawn between Eifler’s work and the infectious geometry of fellow Abex painter Mary Heilmann, but Eifler eschewed the art scene that Heilmann tried to embrace. Fellow male painters “liked [Heilmann] but they never gave her a chance.” So Eifler took a divergent and circuitous path. “I had a short career in fashion in New York. I worked for Vogue magazine.” The jubilance of that kind of self-expression was mired in the “meanness” of the fashion industry. “They were coming from a background of ‘that’s how you did it,” a rigid mentality that Eifler found stifling.
She continued to work, often tailoring her process around practicalities. “We would take car trips with the kids and nobody would bother me,” Eifler says of her initial collages. Her second educational experience, after raising her children and moving on from a twenty-year teaching career at St John’s in Houston, was far more positive. Following a short stint at the Glassell School, Eifler was accepted to the University of Houston’s graduate painting program. “I was at that point that I really needed to catch up with what had been going on in the art world.” A particular stroke of luck had it that the entire incoming class of MFA painting candidates was made up of women. “We had a good group of all women. Everyone was very supportive.” Eifler’s work flourished under these conditions, a theme throughout her creative life. Now Eifler’s loose abstractions are reflected in her environment, where everything feels like it has recently been moved, or is about to be.
Expanding the medium through collage, digital prints, and even a large installation at Lawndale Art Center in 2012, Eifler continues to “work on finding different shapes.” These days she still spends a lot of time on the road, traveling across Texas. One imagines that it’s these western vistas that populate the spaces in her paintings- a strip of blue sky or the narrowing V of an endless road. “My husband is a mineral collector,” she says. “Tucson has the largest mineral show in the world, so we drive.” During these treks, she scavenges the pages of Houston’s Paper City magazine, repurposing the chronicles of Houston’s mover-and-shaker types and their lurid advertisements to her own ends. “I like the colors they use,” Eifler says of the magazine. Like any good abstract artist, she is open to possibility, looking at the world afresh constantly. “I used to be a devout oil painter. I still miss the rich colors.” Today, what begins in collage could have a final iteration in paint, digital print, or a mashup of all three. Jane Eifler presents us with echoes of the familiar, warm round contours and “funky” color, allowing them to exist in exciting moments of near-peril. In that way, Eifler’s works are like a good road trip-we travel in safety through the wild and vibrant unknown.