Spellerberg Projects

Honoria Starbuck, Flaneuse

Exhibition • January 16–March 20, 2016

Spellerberg Projects is proud to present Flaneuse, a dynamic installation of small-format paintings by American artist Honoria Starbuck.

The works in this exhibition are 5 × 7 inch postcard-sized gestural paintings, produced in watercolor, pen & ink, pastel, collage, graphite and acrylics. They are the product of the artist as flaneuse, maneuvering through contemporary life and engagement with art history.

Starbuck’s inspiration flows from the earliest of mark-making gestures, prehistoric cave painting, through art history and up to present day practices such as digital painting via tablet computers. The pieces explore color, shape and the interaction of materials, with subjects ranging from observed nature, abstract forms and fashion.

The exhibition is a site-specific dynamic installation, conceived by the artist for the storefront gallery at Spellerberg Projects. Gazing in the windows of the gallery, the viewer sees dozens of small-format artworks displayed on a rail along the gallery walls. Upon entering the space, she encounters a cabinet containing hundreds of paintings, organized by theme. A white-gloved attendant invites her to select a set of work to display, then replaces the paintings on the rail with those of her choosing.

This installation format is inspired by that of the Lithuania Pavilion of the 54th Venice Biennale, held in 2011. Titled “Behind the White Curtain,” visitors could browse a catalog to select works, which would then be retrieved from an archive and displayed in a structure custom-made for the exhibition.

The artist’s choice of the 5 × 7 inch postcard-sized format derives from her long-term engagement with Mail Art, a populist artistic practice centered on sending small scale works through the postal service. Originally practiced by the Fluxus artists of the 1950s and 60s, it has since developed into a thriving global movement. The particular works in this exhibition don’t qualify as Mail Art, however, because they haven’t been sent through the mail… yet.

About Honoria Starbuck

Honoria Starbuck received an interdisciplinary Ph.D in communications, fine arts, and education from the University of Texas, Austin. She has been a member of the global Mail Art Network for over twenty five years and her work has shown in festivals, museums, galleries and private settings around the world. She has taught at the Art Institute of Austin, the Austin Museum of Digital Art and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh; and serves on the advisory board of SXSW Edu and the programming board of SXSW Interactive.


What’s a Flaneuse?

The word flâneur refers to the nineteenth century French man depicted by writers such as Balzac and Baudelaire. He was a dashing young gentleman whose literary prowess allowed him to describe and analyze social customs, commerce and politics in the modernizing city. The idea of being a flâneur, someone who walks the streets observing city life, is key to our understanding of the urban, and of art, from the late nineteenth century onwards.

Historians typically portray the flâneur as an exclusively male identity. Nineteenth century urban women were assumed to have been passive, objectified, and exploited; not active participants in the burgeoning capitalist marketplace. For example, author Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin had to disguise herself as a man and use the pseudonym “George Sand” in order to walk the streets of Paris freely. But even today’s women discover obstacles when stepping off the well-trodden paths of career, marriage, children. Because of this, a flaneuse is more than just the feminine equivalent of a flâneur, she’s also a feminist.

(This definition owes credit to Dana Goldstein and Lauren Elkin.)