Tammra Sigler has changed, and for the better. In her last two shows at G. H. Dalsheimer, in 1987 and 1989, she left the figure, a former subject, in favor of landscape that tended increasingly toward abstraction. Her palette was light, and her images were always pleasant, enjoyable, but they seemed at times too light.
In the new works in her current Dalsheimer show ("Tammra Sigler," through Jan. 12), she has returned to the figure with good results. Her nudes in indeterminate, often largely abstract settings have a sensuous quality achieved in part by the counterpoint of bright glowing flesh tones set off by rich, dark backgrounds.
In "Kristina Reading Bonnard," "Kristina Standing" "Jamie with Curled Leg" and other paintings, the body seems to radiate light, and Sigler's brushstroke adds to the sensuousness of her surfaces.
The lushness of color does recall Bonnard, and Sigler is not afraid of direct reference, either; "Kristina Reading Matisse" quotes from the Baltimore Museum of Art's "Pink Nude."
Despite the darkness surrounding most of these women, we do not feel that there is anything threatening or negative being expressed here. "Red Crescent" could even be interpreted to contain a storm-filled sky, but with no hint of menace.
Similarly, these are not deep psychological or philosophical studies; they are content to be relatively straightforward, but at the same time more satisfying than Sigler's work of the previous few years because one senses her playing to her strengths.
Yet, these are not all in the same vein. Two of them, "Tucked Float Covered" and "Reclining on Red" are more ambiguous in their approach both to the figure and to space. And "Tucked Float Covered" more or less reverses the color counterpoint, surrounding dark with light. These are in some ways the most ambitious works in the show because they reveal Sigler working within her strengths toward greater complexity and tension. One wonders whether they signal another new direction, to be revealed in Sigler's next show.
But where will that be? Seeing this show is made especially poignant by George Dalsheimer's announcement this past weekend of his intention to close the gallery in April. In its almost 10 years of existence, it has changed its emphasis from photography to a broader mix and its home from smaller to larger vTC quarters, but from its opening, it has never been less than a major presence on the local art scene.