Indulgence: A Showcase of Artwork by Nicole McCormick Santiago
Reviewed by Emma West
When surveying the array of artwork on display in “Indulgence,” there is a pervasive contrast that draws the viewer’s attention. Each painting is bright to the point of being boisterous—a color pallet of electrifying yellows, pinks, blues and greens. In her works, Nicole McCormick Santiago has depicted scenes of celebration, painted parties, weddings and baby showers. Yet although the mood of these paintings appears festive, it is purely superficial: a flashy cover for the deeper, distinctly bittersweet message beneath.
The main body of Nicole McCormick Santiago’s works consists of desserts. Cakes, cookies and cupcakes are all are depicted with exuberance and a masterful use of bold color. Icing adorns the cakes in intricate patterns, along with sprinkles that provide splashes of dazzling brightness. Every painting possesses exquisite detail—picnic blankets are fuchsia with white polka dots, labels on Coca-Cola bottles are so precise as to be readable. The result, while at once beguiling, upon closer scrutiny becomes almost gaudy, and even a little pretentious.
If the setting of these paintings is intriguing, however, the subjects themselves are even more so. They blend so well into the colorful background in which they are placed that they almost escape notice entirely. Once the viewer’s notice is caught, however, it is not easily shaken. They are women, the subjects of these paintings—regal, dramatically dressed women, who exude loftiness. They appear as if they are part of the festivities—accepting gifts, partaking of the overabundant desserts, molding themselves into the role that the setting dictates—yet they seem apart from it as well. These women are moving through the euphoric chaos around them, behaving as expected, while their attention is lost in introspection.
What is it that so captivates the minds of these women? Their eyes are pensive, and while their lips are pressed closed in defiance, there is something oddly vulnerable in their expressions. When one looks at them, it is as if these women meet ones’ eyes, almost in the nature of a question. They are meditative. Not restful—in fact, they feel distinctly unsettled. Yet they are focusing their attention internally, allowing it to encompass an issue that, while central to the piece’s message, is skated over in the glitzy surface of the painting itself.
Indulgence. Is it possible for there to be too much celebration? For festivities to turn from a well-deserved respite into a constant condition? And does indulgence, at that point, become excessive? Certainly, and it is this that the paintings wish to convey. These women are swept up in the glamorous flamboyance around them, locked in an unending cycle—decadence to the point of aversion, and yet still unable to refuse the allure of the extravagances that continue to tempt them. On the surface, this relationship is portrayed by the notion of enjoying too much of the desserts with which the paintings are littered, yet this translates into a broader, perhaps more philosophical message: overindulgence does not promise fulfillment. It is, in fact, nothing more than an illusion.