'Roots, Shadows, Ruins': The progression of an artist's life

February 05, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Sometimes even if a show does not do all that is claimed, its parts can make it more than worthwhile; that's the case with Peggy Fox's photography/mixed-media exhibit, titled "Roots, Shadows, Ruins: Variations on a Theme" at Galerie Francoise.

Fox's work is a blend of photography, painting and collage. Using her own photographs, Fox adds paint -- sometimes in the form of reverse painting on plexiglass -- and things such as feathers, small metal objects and mirrors.

A dozen of these are on view in the current show, and I was told at the gallery that each is part of a progression that reflects the artist's life and, by extension, the lives of those who see them. They amount to a "collective narrative," according to the gallery's statement.

Well, not entirely. As parts of a whole, these works do not quite add up; they look like individual images which have been forced into a mold that doesn't really fit them. As individual images, their success varies, but some of them are quite effective, and a number of them do indeed establish points of identity with the viewer.

The fragmented picture that is "Point of Departure" places the viewer in a high position looking down on a number of silhouetted figures setting off in various directions. The idea of life's possible paths is obvious, perhaps, but Fox has made a strong image nevertheless.

She also carries forward a fragment of this image into another work, "Adieu." This is again about setting out, but the figure here is individual, not multiple, indicating that a choice has been made, and the necessary break with one's protected childhood is symbolized by a picture of a house, presumably home, left behind.

"Bottom" looks down into an empty pool, perhaps a swimming pool. The pool's ugliness may signify what can lie below a smooth, inviting surface (read facade); or its emptiness may signify the loss, with age, of pleasures once enjoyed. Like this, other Fox works here can suggest multiple possibilities; some, however, leave the impression of being overstuffed, resulting in some confusion.

But with "Warrior" Fox reaches the high point of her achievement here. It does have a message about memory and the sometimes disparate elements that make up a life (from ancient history to personal relationships). But it is also a striking composition and a beautiful picture, with its rich colors, its deep black, and the fine integration of all of its parts.

Peggy Fox

Where: Galerie Francoise et ses freres, in Green Spring Station at Falls and Joppa roads.

When: Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Feb. 28.

% Call: (410) 337-2787.

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