Linda Stojak: Battle is Internal Digital Catalog

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Linda Stojak

Battle is Internal

In her latest series of paintings, Linda Stojak’s liminal figures emerge from that narrow space between “two eternities of darkness” and step into the brief, dazzling light that is human life. Referring to the opening line of her favorite book, Speak, Memory, by Vladimir Nabokov, storied American painter Linda Stojak creates lithe, mysterious women that materialize out of a placeless and timeless ether. Suspended in unstable expanses of pallid color, and surrounded – just outside the bounds of the canvas – by the ineffable void that precedes birth and proceeds death, they weightlessly exist in a plane between reality and metaphor. By pushing past the darkness, their fragile existence asserts connection, even redemption, in their fleeting beauty much like Nabokov’s beloved butterflies act as divine messengers of transformation and rebirth.

Linda Stojak’s laborious artistic process mirrors her figures’ transitory state of being and non-being, corporeality and erasure. To achieve this otherworldly effect, Stojak applies oil paint with a palette knife only to scrape it away, again and again. Her paintings are worked and reworked, a Sisyphean task of grinding dedication to access the mystery at the heart of each of the women in her paintings – if not to fully explicate them, then at least to grasp their fluttering enigmas if only for a moment. This seemingly meditative repetition yields no easy enlightenment at the end of it, as the thickly textured surfaces obfuscate more than they clarify. The figures of the women are then outlined by sketching into this meticulously prepared surface with the edge of the blade. Another contradiction, of creating by means of cutting and carving, is thereby introduced. Though they might appear out of murky depths, however, her figures are firmly of substance. They may seem flattened, with sparse lines barely suggesting any spatial depth, but they are hardly two-dimensional. In a similar process of building up, scraping, and scuffing, leading Bay Area painter Nathan Oliviera’s uneasy human figures also slowly materialized from the void. As a curator once commented regarding Oliviera, “He was finding the figure in the process of painting it.” The same could be

said for Stojak, for whom the artistic journey to retrieve her figures is so arduous that she can only produce a few such paintings a year.

Whether nymphs or wraiths, the faces of all these women are unknowable. Only some of Stojak’s figures have eyes, the proverbial windows to the soul, and those that can see will not hold your gaze. In their shifting states, expressed by layers of overlapping brushstrokes that have been applied in order to be immediately expunged, the hint of a nose or eyes may surface before floating away beyond your grasping comprehension. Because of the seemingly incompleteness of the faces, there is a lingering feeling that only part of the figure has emerged, supporting the notion that these women have not fully stepped into our mortal world. What is unmistakably delineated in these latest paintings, however, are their prominent red mouths. Traced for emphasis as a woman would use lip liner, and smeared with ‘lipstick’ in dripping red paint, their mouths become the centerpoint of attention of each canvas. They may not see but they most assuredly can speak. This configuration immediately calls to mind a longstanding trope of feminine power: a woman who cannot apparently see may yet have second sight, and her oversized, conspicuous mouth suggests the prophetic voice of a soothsayer. In mythology and in history, these gifts placed them outside of space and time. Stojak’s women are therefore the inversion of the supersaturated, hypersexualized contemporary caricatures of femininity whose faces are overwhelmed with innocent doe eyes and dotted with barely perceptible mouths. Her women’s enlarged red orifices locate their sexuality and femininity instead in the power of their voice. To see past, present, and future is to hold secret knowledge, and from these strange women, you may not like what you hear. Even as their corporeal forms seem to cohere and disintegrate, their mouths will certainly be the last to fade away. In classical mythology, the goddess Psyche was the embodiment of transformation, simultaneously representing the soul and the mind. With Nabokovian lyricism, the soul was believed to leave a deceased person’s body via the mouth and was depicted by her symbol, the butterfly.

1613 Paseo de Peralta I Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 I 505.988.3250 I I Cover: Linda Stojak, Untitled (Figure 153), 2024, Oil on canvas, 62 x 48 in.
June 28 - August 10 | 2024

Strategically deploying spare but thick lines that suggest volume and atmosphere, Stojak’s faceless women are described most noticeably by the folds and silhouette of their wardrobe. Previously, critics have suggested that the fashions depicted in her paintings appear historical, even quaint, in their modesty. They couldn’t imagine these anomalous floor-length gowns fitting within our contemporary ethos of aggressively casual gym wear at all times. Her women are not dressed for daily errands, however, but to be truly seen. Referring back to Nabokov, Stojak seems to suggest that the consequence of attaining corporeality as a human woman, of being alive, is to be constantly perceived. In that light, her figures’ wardrobe conveys the seriousness of purpose as those leading society ladies captured in formal portraits by John Singer Sargent over a hundred years ago. Each figure’s uniqueness is formed via an accumulation of choices in dress, hair, and accessories that, when considered together, are simultaneously shielding and revelatory. Clothing’s basic function operates here to cover, conceal, and even to protect, as chainmail or armor would in battle. And yet, infinitely more about a woman is exposed – her desires and insecurities, her personality and priorities – by the choice of hemline, color, and fabrics than if she were completely naked. Critic John Biscello was on to her when he wrote, “In Stojak’s world, a symbiotic merger between stitch and flesh, fashion and form, seems to be taking place.” The embroidery stitches, and occasionally unraveling white and red threads delineated by long paint drips, point to flesh wounds that employ the same vocabulary of rip and tenuous repair. The seams are always visible, always there.

Linda Stojak’s paintings have been compared to the elongated, archetypal figures of Alberto Giacometti, or to the thick expanses that characterize the work of Susan Rothenberg. Comparisons above to portraitist John Singer Sargent, or to Nathan Oliviera also have their merits. But Stojak herself traces her influences to literature, citing Nabokov and the romantic German poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Her visual references are rooted in the works of celebrated South African painter Marlene Dumas, or the largescale, abstract work of American artist Jacqueline Humphries, or

the distinctly identifiable portraits of Chantal Joffe. Stojak is not influenced by them so much as in a league of kinship with the endeavoring spirit of these daring contemporary women artists.

After four decades, Linda Stojak’s solitary women remain mysterious. Stojak’s spectral figures have been called universal symbols of femininity, or of humanity, but their carefully tailored clothing and expressive, wary postures are too particular for that interpretation. Because of their resolute facelessness, they are defiantly non-portraits, denying the viewer any details that would identify them with a specific person or even with a group or category. This subversion of meaning may be at the heart of why her paintings are so strangely alluring. The creative process, of building up and scraping away, is Stojak’s clearest signal of intent: each painting is as personal as a self-portrait, and as elusive as memory. And just like memory, the more that is added through time and experience, the more that is inevitably erased. Her figures give us the distinct feeling of familiarity tinged with uncertainty, just as we can be simultaneously so sure of and so unreliable about our own past. The brief, human life that Nabokov describes as a “crack of light” breaking through an infinite darkness can be luminous with blinding clarity while remaining enshrouded in ambiguity. It is apt that Nabokov’s memoir is titled, Speak, Memory, and it could very well be the alternate title to this latest Linda Stojak exhibition. Her figures are as ghostly as the human body and as substantive as memory, emerging briefly before receding back into that numinous color space to transform and reform onto her canvas.

Click on Images in this Catalog to Inquire
Untitled (Figure 153), 2024 Oil on canvas 62 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 152), 2024 Oil on canvas 72 x 36 in. Untitled (Figure 148), 2024 Oil on canvas 72 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 149), 2024 Oil on canvas 72 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 154), 2024 Oil on canvas 60 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 150), 2024 Oil on canvas 60 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 140), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figures 151), 2024 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 142), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 143), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 147), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 144), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 145), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 146), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Figure 141), 2023 Oil on canvas 48 x 48 in. Untitled (Visage 30), 2024 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in. Untitled (Visage 26), 2024 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in. Untitled (Visage 30), 2024 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in. Untitled (Visage 27), 2024 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in. Untitled (Visage 28), 2024 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in. Untitled (Figure 155), 2024 Oil on canvas 48 x 60 in. Photo: Linda Stojak in her studio


1980 Pratt Institute, New York, NY, MFA

1978 Arcadia University, Glenside, PA, BFA

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2022 It’s OK To Do Nothing, Lowell Ryan Project, Los Angelas, CA

2022 As of Now, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM

2019 Look Away, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM

2017 Silent Voices, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM

2015 Waiting for a Moment, Stux + Haller Gallery, New York, NY

2013 Linda Stojak: Redux, Stephen Haller Gallery, New York, NY

2012 Linda Stojak: Tether, Stephen Haller Gallery, New York, NY

2011 From the Moment Past, Stephen Haller Gallery, New York, NY

2008 Linda Stojak, Molloy College Art Gallery, New York, NY

2001 Linda Stojak, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA

2001 Linda Stojak, Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

2001 Linda Stojak, Herter Art Gallery, U of Mass, Amherst, MA

Selected Group Exhibitions

2015 Group Matrix, Stux + Haller, New York, NY

2007 ART20 2007, The Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY

2006 Why the Nude? Contemporary Approaches, The Arts Students League of NY, New York, NY

2006 ART20 2006, The Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY

2003 The Perception of Appearance, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA

2001 Degrees of Figuration, Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ

2000 Pictura Lucida (Paintings by Leeway Grant recipients), Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA

2000 Paintings, Anderson Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM

1996 Art on Paper (catalogue), Weatherspoon Art Gallery, UNC, Greensboro, NC

1996 Points of Turbulence in Contemporary Art (catalogue), Main Gallery, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

1995 Essence and Persuasion: The Power of Black and White (catalogue), Anderson Gallery, Buffalo, NY

1995 Virtuosity International Art Fair, The Armory, New York, NY

1994 Double Indemnity: The Self Unmasked, Curator: Joyce Korotkin, City Without Walls, Newark, NJ

1994 Timely & Timeless (catalogue), Curator: Doug Maxwell The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT

1992 Minneapolis/New York, Carolyn Ruff Gallery, Minneapolis, MN

1992 Apocalypse and Resurrection, The Gallery Three Zero, New York, NY

1991 Figures in Art, Tavelli/Williams Gallery, Aspen, CO

Selected Bibliography

2018 ARTNET NEWS, Sarah Cascone, January 29, 2018

2018 THE STRANGER, Leah St.Lawrence, January 26, 2018

2017 RIOT MATERIAL MAGAZINE, Displaced Debutantes and Soluble Entities: The Vision of Linda Stojak, John Biscello, April 21, 2017

2017 PASATIEMPO MAGAZINE, Faceless Encounters: The Paintings of Linda Stojak, Michael Abatemarco, March 10, 2017

2013 THE EXAMINER, Linda Stojak’s Remarkable Redux, Ken Fitch June 14, 2013

2013 ARTDAILY.ORG, A group exhibition at Stephen Haller Gallery new and historic..., July 22nd, 2013

2012 ARTDAILY.ORG, Exhibition of new paintings by painter Linda Stojak opens..., October 18, 2012

2011 THE FOOD AND THE CITY, A Woman of all Times – Linda Stojak at Stephen Haller Gallery, January 29, 2011


2011 IONARTS, Belly Laughs and Haunting Beauty, Mark Barry February 23rd, 2011

2010 IONARTS, A Sizzling Summertime Post, July 6, 2010

2009 CONTRACT MAGAZINE, Saks Fifth Avenue Revamps..., August 31, 2009

2006 ART IN AMERICA, Linda Stojak at Stephen Haller, Edward Leffingwell May 2006

2005 CATALOGUE ESSAY, Linda Stojak, Michael Amy, September 2005

2004 ART NEWS, Linda Stojak, Robert Morgan, July, 2004

2001 THE NEW YORK TIMES, The Human Figure, As Myth, William Zimmer, December 23, 2001

2001 TIME OFF, Surrogate Portraits, Susan Van Dongen, December 2001

2001 THE SUNDAY STAR-LEDGER, Go Figure: Bodies Of Work Focus On Human Form, Dan Bischoff, November 25, 2001

2001 SOUTH PLAINFIELD REPORTER, Hunterdon Museum of Art - Three Exhibitions, October 19, 2001

2001 HUNTERDON, Hunterdon Museum of Art, October 17, 2001

2001 HUNTERDON WEEKENDER, Three Exhibitions at Art Museum NORTH, November 3, 2001

2000 PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER, Winners, Robin Rice, October 19, 2000

2000 EXHIBITION CATALOGUE, Pictura Lucida, Amy Schlegel, September 2000

1999 NY ARTS MAGAZINE, Linda Stojak, David Bourbon, May 1999

1998 REVIEW, Linda Stojak, Douglas F. Maxwell April 1, 1998

1998 JULIET ART MAGAZINE, Linda Stojak, Lorenza Galeone, Italy, April/May, 1998

1998 REVIEW, Linda Stojak, J. Bowyer Bell, April 1, 1998

1997 NY ARTS, Linda Stojak, Paintings, Vic Torri, June 1997

1997 REVIEW, Linda Stojak, Lissa McClure, May 15, 1997

1997 RAND SCHOOL PUBLICATION, Linda Stojak, Spring 1997

1997 ART NEW ENGLAND, The Uneasy Surface..., Gregory Wallace, February/March, 1997

1997 REVIEW, Linda Stojak, J. Bowyer Bell, May 1, 1997

1996 ART IN AMERICA, Linda Stojak at Stephen Haller, Richard Vine, January, 1996

1996 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL-BULLETIN, Scratching the surface of art’s materials, Bill van Siclen, Sept 13, 1996

1996 ART MAGAZINE, The Stream of Art in Big Apple, Machiko Matsufuji, Tokyo, Japan, January-February, 1996

1995 NEW ENGLAND REVIEW, New York Galleries, Carl Schiffman, November, 1995

1995 THE BUFFALO NEWS, One-two punch, Richard Huntington, April 28, 1995

1995 ARTVOICE, Essence and Persuasion, Elisa Deyneka, April 12, 1995

1994 THE SUNDAY STAR-LEDGER, Newark Exhibition Explores ..., Eileen Watkins, April 17, 1994

1994 EXHIBITION CATALOGUE, Timely and Timeless, Douglas Maxwell, 1994

1993 ARTFORUM, Linda Stojak, Linda Yablonsky, December, 1993

1993 ARTFAIR, Linda Stojak at Stephen Haller, Fall 1993

1992 COVER MAGAZINE, Linda Stojak, Jeff Wright, April, 1992

1991 LE DEVOIR, Quatre galeries new-yorkaises...,Marie-Michelle Cron, November, 1991

1991 COVER MAGAZINE, Adam McGovern, October, 1991

Museum & Public Collections







Grants & Awards

2005 Toblach Grant: Artist Residency International Academy for Painting & Digital Photography, Toblach, Italy

2000 Leeway Foundation Grant (Achievement Award) Distinguished Achievement Award, Arcadia University

1996 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

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