In her colorful melted-plastic work Plastic Lila, Boston-based artist Sheila Gallagher applies innovative, self-developed techniques to everyday materials, creating an image that infuses new life into historical tradition. Like the miniature Hindu paintings she studied on a recent trip to India, Gallagher’s painting explores the parallels between romantic love and natural landscape. But unlike those paintings, Gallagher’s work omits the figure entirely. The main mythological figures of Krishna and Radha remain notably absent.
In place of the lovers’ physical presence, the painting calls attention to the materials of its making: plastic recyclables of myriad shapes, sizes, and colors, which the artist culls from the bins in her neighborhood. Composing her materials—yogurt cups, toothbrushes, and other discarded plastic—expressively and intuitively, Gallagher creates sections of the painting on cookie sheets, which she heats on a standard household grill in the alley outside her studio. She then connects the sections into a seamless, breathtaking whole.