The cool early morning light casts an eerie stillness over the swimming pool in Paul Fenniak’s painting Short Cut (2006). The protagonist, a young woman with mousy brown hair and a sturdy build, carries a satchel and hunches forward midstride along the right edge of the pool. She looks toward the background of the painting, away from the viewer and across the water. Perhaps she is taking a surreptitious detour through this closed and empty space on her way to school. Fenniak skillfully captures the bluish dawn, the sun raking across clean, calm water, the gentle hint of breeze waving the pennants across the width of the pool. The setting appears ordinary in its comforting, suburban familiarity, but Fenniak’s painting depicts an astonishingly haunting and uncannily quiet moment in the midst of an otherwise normal routine. In anticipation of being noticed, the girl poses peculiarly. With her crouched stance in this horizontal expanse of space, where one could not easily hide, the girl attempts to be unseen. Absorbed completely in either a seemingly innocent adolescent transgression or a more furtive escape, she nervously avoids any witnesses and is oblivious to being beheld by the viewer of the painting. This voyeuristic and enigmatic glimpse into a character’s private moment reappears as a common theme in Fenniak’s paintings. His works depict ﬁgures engrossed not necessarily by an action, chore, or conversation; rather the individuals all appear somewhat isolated and consistently preoccupied by thought. [excerpt]
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Egan, Shannon. (Winter 2008) A Quiet Absorption: Paul Fenniak’s Realism. The Gettysburg Review 21(4):581-592.
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Used with permission from The Gettysburg Review