Feeling Nostalgic: “Wild Child” is a Playground to Revisit the Past

by Jacky Cortiaus June 16, 2023
Installation view of cubes on a white wall and a striped painting on a yellow wall

Installation view of “Wild Child” on view at Laura Rathe Fine Art, Houston.

One of the surprising aftereffects of the COVID lockdown is the increased interest in all things relating to nostalgia, of escaping the present by reminiscing about the past. This nostalgia, which started as a trend on social media, continues to influence a variety of domains, including art. Now, even the art world recognizes many people’s desire for this feeling while the world is rapidly changing. Wild Child is a three-artist exhibition featuring Katherine Houston, Gian Garofalo, and Marcos Anziani, presented by Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston. This trio of talent displays works that explore nostalgia with their vibrant and playful use of color, material, and composition, to invite audiences to reflect on childhood memories.

Viewers are greeted with a grid of colorful cubes on the left wall upon entering the gallery, which sets the tone for a playful and dazzling exhibition. A native Houstonian, Katherine Houston demonstrates impressive work in a variety of mediums and styles. While her first career was as an investment broker, Houston transitioned to starting a family, and then she became an artist. Acrylic Cube Installation Geometric forms a twelve-by-six grid on the left side wall upon entry to the gallery, totalling seventy-two cubes. Each cube is comprised of one color in several different shades and textures, making them all slightly different. While seemingly simple on their own, together these cubes compose a large work of bold colors. The light from a nearby window plays with the colors, allowing them to come together in a vibrant yet soothing and playful manner.

Installation of cubes of color

Katherine Houston, “Acrylic Cube Installation Geometric,” 2023, acrylic on acrylic

Playing off of the vibrant tones of Houston’s work, Gian Garofalo’s textdrip artworks also use bright colors, but with a more overtly whimsical theme. Born in Chicago in 1972, Garofalo spent a large part of his childhood and adolescence in Norway. One of his works in this show, She’s Got Eyes…, uses shades of primarily blue and white. For the piece, Garofalo lets the paint drip to form straight, vertical lines. These simple, narrow lines of paint create patterns of alternating shades of the two colors. At the bottom of the frame, the drips of paint solidify into “paintsicles,” and form the words “She’s Got Eyes Like the Bluest Skies,” a lyrics from the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

Garofalo’s work feels nostalgic and sentimental, reminiscent of a simpler time, one that felt safe and secure. He strives to create artworks that visually alter the chemistry of a room, and through his process of trial and error he works through obstacles that ultimately become discoveries that make way for new ideas. Garofalo’s work is simple and striking, and gives space to audiences to reflect on times when life felt less complicated.

Blue and white pigment dripping down to texts

Gian Garofalo, “She’s Got Eyes…,” 2023, Resin and pigment on panel, 38 x 80 inches.

Marcos Anziani was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in the Bronx, and is currently based in Connecticut. Inspired by daily life with two children, Anziani’s works possess the energy and vitality of youth and the franticness of adulthood, particularly parenthood. Anziani has stated that he is inspired by the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joan Miró, and Willem de Kooning. His bold strokes of thick, colorful paint and collages of figures reference the surrealists and abstract expressionists.

In Unconditional, Anziani starts with a light background. Thick brushes of paint energize the canvas with a variety of forms for viewers to decipher, encouraging examination from both a distance and up close. Beginning in the center of the artwork, a black shape with white dots grounds the piece. Towards the upper-right corner, three green ovals, similar to citrus fruit, are intersected by white, orange, and teal lines of paint; one shape of white paint suggests the sail of a boat, or an animal’s pointed ear. Moving down to the lower-right color, a large teal form that looks like an upturned palm with cartoonishly large fingers stands out. Across in the lower left corner, a transparent cloud is rendered with light blue paint, but interrupted by brown and blue squiggles. Finally, in the upper left corner, two black circles are filled with teal paint, similar to the shape of goggles, of red, black, and white lines.

These lines and forms remind viewers of something they are familiar with, but that unfamiliarity does not apply to anything in particular, adding to the thrill of viewing. The convergence of thickly painted color with various shapes feels nostalgic and energetic. In contrast to the streamlined pieces by Houston and Garofalo, the dense paint of Anziani’s work reminds viewers of the complexity of life.

Gestural painting on canvas

Marcos Anziani, “Unconditional,” 2023, acrylic and oil on canvas, 46 x 45 inches

Wild Child certainly conveys themes of nostalgia, childhood, and freedom from the seriousness of life. It invites audiences to reflect on simpler times in a way that is not overly sentimental, but playful and inspiring. It may not do well to dwell on the past, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to take a moment to feel a sense of nostalgia and gratitude for when life felt easier.


Wild Child is on view through June 19, 2023 at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.

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