René Crigler (b. 1960) is a mid-career American multi-media artist who’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions, as well as public displays in numerous locations throughout the United States. The work has also been presented in multiple publications both in-print and online. Crigler is best known for using carbon fiber to illustrate everyday imagery with subliminal references inside representational elements such as: varying flowers, cars, and landscapes. Creating a language of symbols which nod to feminism, environmentalism, political activism and sensuality within the hidden glyphs, she streamlines the positive space of the flower while revealing the tell-tale ‘weave’ of the carbon-fiber. Honing in on the gender-duality and auspicious meaning of sexual fortitude of an orchid flower for example, Crigler interprets and references unique ornamental elements of meaning in color as well as within their never ambiguous exotic forms.
The depiction of automobiles used in Crigler’s practice began in 2005, after a heartfelt conversation with a beloved uncle. The memories attached to vehicles as personalized objects fascinated her, so the trophy like representation of individualized automotive began to help ease loss, or a sense of grief. Almost therapeutic, works like “fly mom fly” become a tribute to her mother’s late life and longtime love of classic Mustangs. Beginning her automotive series with a HomeDepot branded NASCAR in a cornfield, Crigler cheekily represents the midwest in this iconic and breakthrough painting. Since, the works have been commissioned by Lamborghini, Indianapolis International Airport commemorating the Indy500, and private clients eager to have the artist represent their precious vehicle and its story on carbon fiber with Crigler’s unique PopArt like style.
The materials Crigler works with stem from growing up around and then working in the motorsports industry. Strategically layering acrylics, gouache and automotive paints and urethane on the carbon fiber, or acrylic house paint on panels, Crigler’s process is a slow and messy one. Using large vinyl masking, the artist after layering the enamel then reveals a neat, glossy and labored image. Her signature process in one of invention since 2006. Viewing the works at angles prove the relief effect of hundreds of layers of acrylic paint built on her ‘canvases’.
No matter what subject matter, Crigler finds meaning in the process by bringing contemporary concepts into the ironically commercial materials. Whether enraptured by news of fires in Brazil’s Amazon set to make way for soy farming as in “Gerbera #1…up in smoke” or the inspired “birds of a feather” where two birds of paradise are mirrored to appear like Okeefe’s study of her iconic cows’ skulls, her work carries conceptual depth. Just as “eve, the tease” painted in a bold scarlet orchid is designed obviously overall, yet the artist includes a modern story with embedded smaller illustrations acknowledging the ‘whole’ of biblical eve. Hiding is a glyph of a woman holding a green apple over her head, teasing the serpents. Due to the high-end quality of the enamel application, keenly designed imagery, and the calculated subtleties of feminism within Crigler’s iconic works, paintings have been commissioned, collected and exhibited in a variety of homes, stores and public spaces.
For more on process and to follow her progress, visit Instagram @renecrigler