Holding in Common: Mimi Fenton

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Mimi Fenton is a painter and Renaissance scholar in Laramie, Wyoming. Until recently, she lived and taught in the mountains of North Carolina where she began painting. She has published four books on the poet John Milton, was a Fulbright Scholar in Budapest, Hungary, and is a Distinguished Alumna of the University of Wyoming. She currently divides her time between teaching literature at UW and working in her studio.

To learn more about Mimi Fenton you can visit her website, mfenton.cargo.site.


The oversized figures in this exhibit are purposely larger than their canvas, each pushing to fill more space, incomplete and uncontained by their frames. Each figure poses in an intimate moment of love, delight, despair, yearning, or self-actualization. These are standalone pieces, unique and conceived separately; however, each self is held together here, and in the painter’s imagining, with the other selves. They share color, gesture, stance, joy, or sorrow. These characters are not thinking outside of themselves in the moments we see them. They are unaware of their commonalities, but they are in conversation, held together in groupings: diptych, triptych, pairings, and series. In the common space of the Rosenthal gallery, they speak with a collective voice, leading into deeper intimacies and connectedness. The viewer first meets the noisy, crammed faces of social and internal conflict in Guernica 2020, then moves into more tranquil conversations between lovers or friends, toward solitary and quiet figures. The final, and only, abstract painting, Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall, symbolically fuses all they are holding in common.

Artist Statement

Why paint, and why paint people? Because, as Renaissance literature teaches, individuals are inimitable and never fully knowable. Because, even now, “what has been said is still not enough.”

I work from early modern definitions where an individual means indivisible and originality means connection with origins, so my large-scale figurative oil paintings present individuals who fuse history with contemporaneity, self with context.

I love every step of creating a painting: research and conceptualization, production, and revision. My paintings originate in poetry or music lyrics. Symbolic colors and intense marks—a nod to expressionism’s insistence on the physicality of paint—do intend interpretive meanings, contingent as they are.

Foregrounding bodies as overfull vessels of interiority that cannot be fully seen–each is cropped or cramped—makes the canvas a metaphor for defining and confining forces—contexts from which individuals are indivisible. Context is not a locale or situation. The semiotics of posture, anatomy, clothing, and material reveal both interiority and context: identity politics and power hierarchies. For instance, androgynous figures with enlarged hands and feet, and powerful old women defy essentialist reductions of beauty, aging, and female agency. People in conflict are fragmented physically and collectively. People are isolated together. Maps are “embodied” because place shapes individuals and places belong within the self.

Exhibit Details

  • Artist: Mimi Fenton
  • Gallery: Rosenthal Gallery
  • Start Date: May 28
  • End Date: August 15