Old photographs bring on powerful surges of nostalgia. They’re hard to resist, as are fantasies of how good life was back then. Mary Wyrick, having discovered among her parents’ belongings pictures of the 1941 “Miss Mayfair” beauty pageant at the textile mill in Burlington, North Carolina, where they lived and worked, decided instead to paint them. Painting can interrupt romantic visions of the past that ignore what we now know to be true: that textile mills and company villages were an extension of the plantation system, that beauty pageants demean and objectify women. Wyrick’s ongoing series of paintings don’t reveal this knowledge directly so much as they make space for the critical viewer to project it. Gone is the glossy, untouchable reality of the camera, present instead is the raw, thoughtful attention of the painter’s brush.
—Lori Waxman 11/12/16 3:34 PM