Langdon Graves is all about the mystery of deception and illumination. Her drawings utilize two contradicting devices, photo-realistic rendering and surrealist narrative, all to create trompe l’oeil images that astound and leave you wanting more. Each drawing has elements that are immediately recognizable, but the second you think you know what is going on, you realize something is amiss. Some drawings are easier to decode, while others have a ‘wait a minute…’ quality that would make M.C. Escher proud. Unlike Escher, Graves saturates her drawings with a folk-like narrative that evokes the feeling that we should be learning some kind of lesson. As if we are seeing just a glimpse of a much larger, more complex story, and are hungry for more.
There is a delicate sense of instability that disrupts the calm in each drawing. Whether it’s Grave’s beautifully subtle use of color, or the quiet violence implied in many of the images, we are not looking into a world of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Instead, Graves creates a world where a dark cloud hangs over each perfectly coiffed head. The combination of innately feminine symbols with clandestine actions produces a tension that lures you in like a moth to a flame. Yet, like any successful illusionist, Graves is careful to not reveal too much, leaving us in a state of expectation similar to the feeling of anticipation when opening a present. You know something special is inside but you only have a few clues to guess what it is.