Nathaniel Mary Quinn lays bare the honesty of humanity - with ripples of hope, anxiety of failure, and the traumas of childhood. Quinn experiences visions that he translates into paintings, most of which get titled after people he has encountered, first in the rough South Side of Chicago where he was born and later abandoned by his family, followed by time in an elite boarding school where he took refuge in education, perhaps realizing how much he had learned from life in the projects, growing up fast, yet how much more he needed to know to survive in his changing circumstances - his portraits are markers of his capacity for empathy.
The title of the show On that Faithful Day, references the day life changed for Quinn, returning to an empty apartment, his father and brothers gone, his mother recently buried - he was fifteen and alone. Death was common place in his community, but abandonment was a drastic shift. On that Faithful Day consists of portraits of Quinn’s mom and self-portraits (the first he has ever made), residual memories of her as well as his emotional states at the age of fifteen. Al Green sings, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, strewn cloths and a sculpture of the gate to Quinn's dorm, where his fellow band members came and went. In a niche a photograph rests, carried through the school gate when leaving home, the only photograph Quinn has of his mother. Yet, his memories are vivid and abiding.
Quinn admits his survival is a result of his education, including his MFA from NYU, but the spark of survival was born with him and he has been aware of it as have most who have known him. Mary's Boy, Golf Mound, and Fifteen (all works 2017) reveal a series of disjointed self-portraits, complex with contradictions - the man boy dichotomy; both male and female; mixed racial attributes; hopeful eyes, brooding mouth, even unsure brow. Irrespective, these contradictions reflect that spark (with sumptuous gilding within the supple skin tones). Quinn uses the energy and character of the individual to project the rich spectrum of humanity in his portraits.
Truth can often be harsh. Quinn's skillful technique navigates the space between photography and painting. He paints from fragments of photographs culled from fashion and culture magazines and embodies a collage aesthetic at the interception between painting and photography. Quinn's skill is such that his delicate hand records his visions as translated through media fragments, refracting the summation of the lives and experiences of those he portrays to immerse the viewer into his world. Quinn's works emerge from and are the start of many inspiring observations.
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