Purdy Eaton was born in Lafayette, Indiana. She received an M.F.A from Hunter College, City University of New York, an M.P.H. from Yale University, New Haven, and a B.S. from Indiana University, Bloomington. She lives and works in New York City.
Her first exhibition of paintings, video painting and photographs at Nancy Hoffman, entitled â€œthe Golden Hour,â€ opens in February 2011. With American painting as her starting point, the Hudson River School artists in particular, Purdy Eaton looks at the land these artists celebrated and idealized and sees a different environment, our contemporary world. The title for her show parallels the idyllic landscapes of a bygone era while it refers to both the first and last hour of sunlight in the day. The title is also infused with the artistâ€™s ironic sense of humor, having grown up on a farm in the Midwest. Light was always important to her, to the family and to life on the farm.
Each canvas begins with the work of an American master as a reference point: for example, Purdy Eatonâ€™s â€œTwilight in the Wildernessâ€ is based on Frederic Edwin Churchâ€™s painting of the same name, which conveys a sense of glory and idealism as well as a mood of solitude. The mood of loneliness and beauty preside in the charged sunlit sky in the artistâ€™s painting. Along the shoreline the artist has painted tiny—almost playful looking—colorful words from Bruce Naumanâ€™s 1984 neon work, â€œOne Hundred Live and Die,â€ a signifier of development for Eaton. The old-fashioned showboat-like cruiser is brimful of bleary-eyed revelers floating down the river, oblivious to the majestic world that surrounds them, yet another comment on contemporary culture, and how the party mood can preside and obfuscate issues of concern.
Frederic Edwin Churchâ€™s 1857 painting â€œNiagaraâ€—the most recognized image of the American sublime—depicts the powerful vista of the Falls without any evidence of humanity. In Eatonâ€™s â€œNiagara,â€ the sublime, in her inimitable sense of humor, includes tourists, helicopters, hulking humans in blue raincoats clustered in front of the sights and sounds and power of the Falls itself.
In the artistâ€™s â€œAmerican Habitatâ€ photographs, Eaton depicts images of the 300-foot high windmills that now dot the Midwest, in eerily pale whitish skies; the sculptural forms become quietly and hauntingly eloquent as comments on manâ€™s further impact on the land, in which a cow, subtly tattooed by the artist, looks at the viewer.
Eaton â€˜s work flows dynamically from oil painting to oil painting with video insertâ€”which the artist views as a moving part of the painting—to photographs, all of which are included in her first NHG solo.