“Messy, uncommon, friendly, contemporary art,” is painter Ann Trainor Domingue’s appealing tagline. After chatting with her, I’m not sure about the “messy” part. A former designer and illustrator who worked for years in advertising, Domingue takes a thoughtful, purposeful approach to her work, even though her recent pieces have taken an abstract turn.
Domingue may be best known for what she calls her “fisherman and a girl” paintings, with the fisherman often depicted wearing bright orange Grundéns bib overalls. “I did the fisherman simply because I love the color orange, along with the whites and blues of the sky and the water,” she says. “And after a while I thought, ‘I’m going to give him a girl,” which opened up a whole relationship thing for me.” With titles like “Charting Our Course,” “Always Here,” and “Because of You,” these paintings have a distinctly sentimental quality and are full of iconic coastal shapes such as boats, gulls, and schools of fish, the last of which might be swimming across the canvas.
Domingue’s newer work also contains coastal elements but represented in a more pared-down way. “I want to entertain myself with what I’m doing,” she says of the shift to the abstract. “I don’t want to be repetitive by doing the same thing over and over.” This means that while she still starts with a sketch, she doesn’t have a pre-conceived idea about where the piece is going to go. “It’s more about the shapes of imagery that I choose to work with and how I can make those shapes work together. It’s like a puzzle, but a puzzle on multiple levels.”
While Domingue has always used strong shapes in her paintings, in her new work shapes are at the forefront. Prominent arches in several pieces represent “the universe beyond us and its reflection below, or the sun or moon as they shine on our world,” she says. These two, “Night After Night,” and “Day After Day” are also simplified in terms of color, which came from wanting to “strip it all down to a more logo-like design approach.” This process references her advertising career, where deadlines, rather than the drive for perfection, often determined when a design was done. “The simplification, the muting of the color, the shapes, the shape of the space around shapes, playing with a pattern of the black, white, and gray—and then just leaving it alone,” Domingue continues. “As a friend used to say, ‘You don’t need to gild a lily; it’s already spectacular.’”