Sarah McEneaney, Baseball, 2010, egg tempera on wood (Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York)

Sarah McEneaney, “Baseball” (2010), egg tempera on wood (all images courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York)

To view Sarah McEneaney’s new show at Tibor de Nagy Gallery is to behold a storybook universe. Her colorful paintings sparkle on the wall like a diamond ring. Her work reminds me of Persian illuminated manuscripts. Both of which can be defined by meticulous brushwork, vibrant color and complex compositions.

McEneaney’s idiosyncratic figures stand in stark contrast to her medium. She paints in egg tempera on wood. She makes her own paint from powdered pigment and egg yolk. The blue-collar process is labor-intensive and does not permit frequent adjustments or modifications. Her do-or-die approach is inspiring. She’s got moxie.

Sarah McEneaney, Boca Chita Key, FLA, 2011, egg tempera on wood (Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York)

Sarah McEneaney, “Boca Chita Key, FLA” (2011), egg tempera on wood.

McEneaney’s subject matter is not razzle-dazzle, but ordinary. She finds inspiration in her everyday life in Philadelphia, as well as from her frequent trips abroad. From watching a baseball game in the nosebleeds to camping beneath a twinkling canopy of stars, she pictures her life on a microscopic level.

Sarah McEneaney, “North Truro Studio” (2010), egg tempera on wood.

Like a good storyteller, she has an eye for detail. Take her painting “North Truro Studio” (2010). Using forced perspective, McEneaney pulls the viewer into the room. We see her as she reclines on a sofa, clutching a fluffy white pillow across her chest. (From the looks of her bare feet, shorts, and tank top, I imagine it’s springtime.) Nearby, her beloved dog, Trixie, snoozes on a pale, green carpet. On the opposing wall, a series of paintings (a few of which hang in this show) line a stone mantelpiece.

Sarah McEneaney, “Davensberg Birthday” (2010), egg tempera on linen.

The other painting of major interest is “Davensberg Birthday” (2010). The picture shows McEneaney, whose back is to the viewer, standing before a wooden terrace at night. (A strategically placed towel covers her bare body.) In the distance, a full moon punctuates the night sky like an exclamation mark. Despite the painting’s naïve realism, the picture flirts with minimalist abstraction as she gets all Kazimir Malevich on the snowy white field.

What I find so appealing about her work is its matter-of-fact sensibility. It is what it is. There is no Sturm und Drang. Her work seems to say: this is my life, this is what it looks like, why don’t you come and join me.

McEneaney’s New Work continues until March 10 at Tibor de Nagy Gallery (724 Fifth Avenue, Midtown, New York).

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