At first glance, the Mississippi-born artist Patrick Puckett paints very pretty pictures of people he might know. But these “portraits”—of figures that fix the viewer with deadpan stares—only seem familiar. “They’re not people I know,” says Puckett, “but they could be people I know.” Like other Southern-bred creatives (think Flannery O’Connor or Harper Lee), Puckett relies on contrasts. But where his literary counterparts pit good against evil, Puckett plays light against darkness and color against shadow. He paints characters that are woefully out of sync with their surroundings: wedding-goers standing solemnly in a row; a lone man lost in thought amidst a lively crowd; a serious senior citizen holding a bouquet of flowers. Puckett lines up festive occasions such as barbeques, bars and beach scenes, only to call out their less amiable undersides. Bright colors are spread across the canvas with bold brushstrokes, shrouding his scenes with shimmering, absinthinian intensity. But anyone who has been in a party place following a romantic fracture, the mortality of a loved one, or a bad, bad case of the blues, knows that the contrast between the living and the lonely isn’t pretty. Luckily, Puckett is more interested in capturing what’s more than skin deep. A solo show of works by Patrick Puckett, at Hall Spassov Gallery, opens August 6, 2015. - Suzanne Beal, ArtLtd.