Natalie Wadlington’s charming, wide-eyed characters paint a picture of our love of pets

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Pets are amazing. They can calm us down on a bad day, and their unconditional love and loyalty can bring us out of darkness. It is to these qualities that artist Natalie Wadlington pays homage in her new body of work.

Front course, Back course depicts the time Natalie spent with her dogs and other animals in Texas before recently moving back to New York. It is an extremely personal work that explores the artist’s fears, anxieties and feelings of entrapment and how her dogs have soothed her but also challenged her spiritually and emotionally.

The series is now on display at Albertz Benda, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York. And it extends the domestic explorations for which Natalie has become best known, which we first featured on Creative Boom last March.



Worms after Rain, 2022. Oil on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

Putting on Dog Leash, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



Putting on Dog Leash, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

Spanning drawing, sculpture and painting, this new series employs multiple approaches to immerse viewers in a complex web of relationships between self and other, human and non-human, momentary instance and pictorial representation.

Highly stylized narrative scenes combine evocative symbols with personal experience and explore an innate connection to animals. The suburban settings recall the backyards where the artist spent his teenage years, while the figures are modeled on his own body. Each performance is autobiographical while addressing universal feelings of anxiety, excitement, discovery and fear.

“In these paintings, I imagine these scenes as actual gardens or plots of land, which the figures settle into as they encounter urban wildlife,” Natalie told Creative Boom. “Most of what is rendered is in one-to-one scale, so for larger works in particular, you can feel like you’re tracing a real front yard and strip of grass. The figures curve and bend to fit the frame of the canvas, all of which are square in this show.

“I like the format of the square, because it’s not a landscape or a portrait. It also works with my paint treatment, because I like to paint everything in the scene with the same level of focus and presence. For me, this style and composition choice makes me imagine that everything in the scene is laid out and presented with their perspective facing the viewer.”

Lying in the grass at night, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



Lying in the grass at night, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

Dog Treat, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



Dog Treat, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

In each composition, Wadlington also explores a mood or feeling through palettes drawn from the vast and ever-changing skies of Texas. In Front Yard with Crepe Myrtle, for example, the brilliant colors of the sunset are refracted onto the canvas.

Warm orange-pink tones glow on a character’s skin; a bright pink tongue sticks out of a panting pup’s mouth as the impending dusk is heralded by purple hues landing on the sidewalk. Discreet instances come together to reveal an atmosphere of melancholic tranquility experienced at the end of the day.

Here, the artist depicts humans passively: they are lounging, curling up or lying on the ground, unlike the more expressive and energetic animals that accompany them. Interactions between humans and animals go beyond language, relying instead on a deep sense of intuition or spiritual connection. Thick textured layers of oil paint forge suggestive tactile bonds, like the shaggy cat fur scraped across the surface of House Outside of Town.

House out of town, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



House out of town, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

Bees in the Blossom, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



Bees in the Blossom, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

Natalie extends this physicality with a selection of ceramic creatures developed over the past year. Working with clay over high heat, Wadlington sculpts a selection of life-size insects that appear to crawl on the walls of the gallery; a seated dog wears a clay “knitted” brindle coat. Together, these works invite us into the artist’s private sphere, providing access to his observations of the living, breathing world around us.

On her recent move to New York, Natalie said, “I’ve spent the last two years in Texas, where my husband is doing graduate school at Texas A&M,” she adds. “It was a safe place to live during the pandemic as I had a live work studio and could really focus on my work. However, I think now is the time for a livelier environment that will challenge me to grow in new ways. I have desperately missed having a strong artistic community and already look forward to visiting studios with friends and artists I admire.

Natalie Wadlington: Forward, Backward is open to the public September 9 through October 8 at Albertz Benda, 515 W 26th St, New York, NY 10001.

Night Frog with Crane, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



Night Frog with Crane, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

Backyard with orange tree, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit;  and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles.  Photo by Thomas Dubrock



Backyard with orange tree, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist, Library Street Collective, Detroit; and albertz benda, New York and Los Angeles. Photo by Thomas Dubrock

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