Review: Aralyn McGregor’s ‘Overlay’ at the Belmont Hotel

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The Belmont Hotel last week hosted the opening reception for recent work by painter Aralyn McGregor as part of its pro-local “Art With a View” series. Lit by candles and low-watt tungsten bulbs, a couple dozen hotel guests, art patrons and the artists’ friends and family mingled in the sunken brick-and-wood lounge with glasses in hand. Heels and collars. Hugs and laughter.

McGregor’s Overlay Series features 19 paintings with consistent themes of organic femininity conversing with one another or those peering into each seemingly double-exposed frame. One attendee, Denton-based sculptor Andie Sterling, described McGregor’s figures as seen “through a reflection or shadows cast by trees.”

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Arguably, there’s more unfolding in these paintings than curvilinear ladies set within a natural palette. Sometimes coy, assertive or unaware, the women of McGregor’s work bear a nymph-like sprightliness. Dancers in a forest of canvas—or life. They seem to reflect the sentiments of Luke Ripley, an Andre Dubus short story character, who says, “the truth is that men find their way into that forest only on clearly marked trails, while women move about in it like birds.”

And if McGregor’s figures resemble their creator, there’s good reason for it: They’re based on self-portrait photos and given a fresh identity thereafter. McGregor said she used her camera’s self-timer to make photographic sketches. Of course, it may also help that her boyfriend, Kurt Griesbach, is a photographer. (He has a photo exhibit at the Belmont slated for August.)

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So why did McGregor choose to only include women in her series? “I paint what I know,” she said.

A 2009 UNT art school grad, McGregor, 27, taught at Williams Preparatory for several years before drawing pay as a Museum Ambassador at the Nasher Sculpture Center. She not only leads tours, but guides patrons who seem a bit “lost” when encircled by art. McGregor cites making potentially intimidating art more approachable as partial inspiration for the Overlay Series.

She said her work is also informed by having grown up in a creative household including a dancer, a musician, a photographer and a cinema professional. Given that fact, perhaps there was greater significance than oft-rote parental praise when McGregor’s mother was overheard saying, “I like these [paintings] better than anything else she’s done.”

The Overlay Series will be on display until March 31.

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