Tahnee Lonsdale Paints Surreal Domestic Scenes Inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Donnie Darko

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. — Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice’s escape from a humdrum world served as heady inspiration for “Pipe Dreams and Rabbit Holes,” a new exhibition by Tahnee Lonsdale, now showing at De Buck Gallery in New York. The English-born, L.A.-based artist also drew inspiration from a seemingly dissimilar work: Donnie Darko (2001), Richard Kelly’s cult classic film that stars a young Jake Gyllenhaal.

Like her literary and cinematic inspirations, Lonsdale’s fantastical paintings are vivid and surreal. They are somewhat abstract yet strongly reminiscent of dreams or, as the case may be, nightmares. Some are rendered in moody blues, like Self Portrait in the Kitchen (2016), while others, like Spread (2016), uncomfortably evoke raw meat or human flesh—disembodied limbs, naked breasts, uncooked chicken thighs.

Those visuals may seem perplexing or disturbing, and that’s the point. After all, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland isn’t a cozy kids’ book, and Donnie Darko is dark and cerebral, with a central character who looks like a man-sized demon rabbit.

  • Image courtesy of De Buck Gallery.

Lonsdale’s works are likewise meditations on escapism. Just as Alice escaped a boring afternoon by slipping down a rabbit hole, and Donnie escaped his troubled adolescence by venturing into an alternate dimension, Lonsdale’s audience might feel like they’re escaping the real world and falling into a series of darkly beautiful, confusing scenes that don’t quite make sense.

The settings are redolent of domestic space—kitchens, living rooms, dining room tables, etc. Fittingly, Lonsdale describes her paintings in terms that also characterize homemaking, or life in general: “A little bit of chaos. Then order. Chaos. Order,” she has said, “normally finishing in chaos.” Indeed, what woman (or man, for that matter) hasn’t dreamt of escaping the pull of day-to-day responsibility?


—Bridget Gleeson


Tahnee Lonsdale: Pipe Dreams and Rabbit Holes” is on view at De Buck Gallery, New York, Jun. 29–Aug. 26, 2016.

Follow De Buck Gallery on Artsy.

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