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Michael Reafsnyder emphasizes the dynamic characteristics of acrylic paint with his masterful ability to manipulate the water-based medium in his recent work on display at R.B. Stevenson Gallery in La Jolla. He fills the canvas with layers of complex hues and expressive strokes of color that flow through the canvas, forming interesting clusters of colors at the intersections.

Echoing the multi-faceted properties of the paint, Reafsnyder uses multiple sizes of pallet knives and sometimes found objects, “I don’t like cleaning brushes…I use anything but a brush.” Amazingly, he is able to keep the colors from mixing or turning into a muddled brown.

In “Guacamole”, it looks as though Reafsnyder slid half an avocado down the middle of the canvas into a pool of sour cream. Up close, the ridges of the paint increase the illusion of a delicious 7-layer dip. Another food-inspired painting, “King Kandy”, ignites the sweet tooth with bright reds and drizzled whites, like an explosion of a giant jawbreaker.

Reafsnyder’s works activate the imagination with their fun personalities. In that spirit, the finishing touch is a smiley face, squeezed directly out of the tube. It represents something like a signature for Reafsnyder, and he has been incorporating it into his work for almost 16 years.

He usually adds the smiley last, but with all the layers of paint, it seems difficult to know when a work is finished. “I scan over the entire painting and look for holes” Reafsnyder explains. The last step is then to remove the tape on the sides of the canvas, revealing a crisp whiteness, contrasting with the distinctive front and giving the work a finished feel.

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