Boundless: Dusty Boynton, at The Bennington Museum

Art New England Review, November/December 2021, by Dian Parker

Dusty Boynton is a force to be reckoned with.  At 88, her courage and tenacity are daring and undaunted.  Her paintings rock with exuberance and joy.  Viewing her work lifts your spirits and leaves you with the feeling that anything is possible.


Boundless at the Bennington Museum, is co-curated by Sophie Bréchu-West and Jamie Franklin.  The exhibit is ripe with color and humor.  The large works, oil on canvas, explode with character  and charm.  Even thought the work may appear at first childlike, on closer inspection, one can see the exacting craft through Boynton's use of outline, background, color and composition.  The painting World Peace & Ice Cream is thick with six or more beings entwined and piled up on the left;  in the center two delicate hands hold four dainty flowers; on the right two figures - man and child, with two tiny creatures hovering.  The man has a thought bubble with no words.  The composition works, even though all the weight is in the left of the painting.  Boynton is a risk-taker.  As she said, "I leave my head at the studio door."


Finding the meaning in her work is a game for your imagination, stretching and urging the viewer to let go and play.  The riot of color, shapes and activities of the characters is baffling.  Is that a green elephant sprouting the head of a girl?  Is that Dr Seuss crying beside a creature singing while juggling a snake on a plate?  


The monoprint titled #5 strikes a hilarious chord.  Is that a mouse, with its bright red tongue stretching towards a girl's upturned, bubblegum pink breast?  The girl appears in rapture with a lipstick red smile covering most of her face.  Positive Approach, oil on linen, shows a man and a woman obviously in love.  Amorous and filled with longing, the woman in pink is reaching for the man sporting a plaid shirt holding a single red flower for her behind his back.  The red lips puckered and ready on both subjects reveal such lovely tenderness and longing.


Boynton has only been painting for 20 years.  Before that she was creating 3D miniature rooms, as in doll houses, or painting people and cows in realistic detail.  Growing up on a farm has had obvious influence on her as evidenced by the animals populating her work.  Each of her creatures and her people has a distinct personality.  She is a generous painter, giving the viewer open, vulnerable, and raw emotion.  I experienced ectasy as well as deep sadness.


"I begin with the line and follow it," Boynton said, "I do it.  I paint it.  I leave it.  I trust it."  Yes, trust.  Seeing the work at the Bennington Museum and other works of hers at 571 Projects in Stowe, I was filled with awe at her trust in the work.  In the monoprints, Boynton usually makes only one pull through the press.  The result may emerge smudged and blurred, like in the print #2.  She will leave that and it works.  You marvel at her confidence.  And joy.  It pours our of the paintings, smack into you.


Spontaneous, improvisational, gestural, original, fresh.  Her paintings remind me of fairy tales for children, like Little Red Riding Hood.  The child is innocent, yet lurking in the shadows may be a big bad wolf.  But is the wolf bad?  Perhaps the girl provokes the wolf.  There is never quite sure.  Same with Dusty Boynton's paintings.

November 1, 2021