Strong is the temptation to lean on an abstract artwork’s title, especially a spiritually suggestive one, for clues to its intended meaning. Strong, too, is the desire to read the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on anything created since it began. The oil paintings of Shayna Miller are no exception to any of this. Her 8 x 10-inch panels adopt the size and intensity, if not the pictorial content, of religious icons, and we need all the help we can get. So, while “Gezerah” illustrates none of the rabbinical ordinances issued to promote better observance of Biblical laws, its messy textures, its dark, envious hues, and the wooden dowels affixed upright on its surface suggest the need for barriers to bad behavior. Though there may be no Noah’s ark in “Ablution,” there are wide vertical brush marks cut off by a prismatic horizontal one that sweeps up in an arch, offering the cleansing relief of a rainbow after the storm. Notably, “Amulet,” with its circles of blue and black, actually looks like a nazar seen up close, as if Miller, aware of the grave need to ward off evil in the world right now, decided to take no chances.
—Lori Waxman 2020-10-26 10:16 AM