Margie Livingston doesn’t just push paint around. She layers it, folds it, quilts it, weaves it, mends it, and drags it behind her on a harness. She has also explored the substrate by playing with stretchers, or weaving loosely knotted grids of string and applying paint so that the whole stiffens into structure.

Her current show at Greg Kucera Gallery is mostly dragged work, which Margie refers to as “a hybrid of Action Painting and performance.” After layering paint onto a panel or canvas, she drags it behind her on a harness, walking through public spaces. Far from the lonely artist toiling away in a garrett, she exposes herself to ridicule in the open. On one wall of the gallery, a video of her process plays on a loop.

Another wall is taken up by a 6 x 8-foot painting, tearing off of the stretcher after having been dragged along the ground. The canvas harness is attached. Margie has dragged other unpainted canvases with weights pressing them against the ground she walks, literally bringing the landscape into the gallery.

A series of color studies illustrate the preparation for the ten panels of “55 Laps.” Panels were layered with paint and dragged to evaluate the result. Margie then prepared the 10 panels with the chosen colors, and dragged them around a circuit during a 10-day event — one lap for “55 Laps: Day One” and 10 laps for “55 Laps: Day Ten.” She discovered on the third day when it rained that wetting the paint caused it to degrade faster, so she subsequently sprayed the panels with water before doing her laps.

“Day Hike: Lake 22/Snohomish and Puget Sound Salish Territories” is representative of the dragged work. Layers of paint have been degraded so that bare panel shows around the perimeter, creating a frame of sorts. A handmade backpack, to which the painting is harnessed, hangs alongside it on the wall. The remaining paint is gouged by the land, calling to mind the way we are ground down by the process of living.

Another series of reduction prints made from dragged panels emphasizes the resultant gouging and degradation of the surface. “24.9 Miles More or Less (Violet and Green on Celery)” was printed on successive visits to the printer. For each layer of the prints, Margie walked from her studio to the print shop, dragging a two-sided panel behind her. Somewhere past the midway point, she would flip the panel over and drag the other side, hence “More or Less.”

Margie has also dragged sketchbooks over the landscape. Artists often feel that their sketchbooks are terribly precious, a source for future reference. By dragging hers through the dirt, Margie scrapes away that value and turns the sketchbook into a “non-painting painting” with a new kind of worthiness.

–Martha Dunham

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