Force of nature

Large-scale painting offers sweeping allegorical narrative

Samantha Simpson’s painting installation, “The Pernicious Natural,” is on display through August 14 in the Slater Concourse of the University Art Gallery. The site-specific, large-scale painting spans two facing 40-foot walls and is the first of its kind in this space.

“The Pernicious Natural” Samantha Simpson

The artist, who teaches at Temple University, invites viewers into her sweeping allegorical narratives with imagery of lush landscapes painted in electric colors. By employing a visual vocabulary of symbols often regarded as “ornamental” or “decorative,” Simpson questions the widely held belief that beauty is acceptable only if justified by a higher meaning.

“The impulse to make beautiful things invalid unless they are somehow made strict or serious is an attempt to tame, or to regulate beauty,” Simpson says. “The urge to decorate, to elaborate and to ornament is natural, and the urge to regulate beauty is an attempt to tame the natural.”

Her work uses badgers as surrogates for people, suggesting that the fear of nature and the decorative uses of nature mirror the fear of one’s untamed self.

Simpson holds a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. “The Pernicious Natural” is her largest work to date.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, call the gallery at 617-627-3518.