Narrative paintings glow with color at Gomez Gallery

July 20, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Nancy Scheinman's "Midsummer Musings" at Gomez continue in the tradition of her exquisite paintings that resemble Persian miniatures or medieval manuscript illuminations. The decorated borders, the patterned backgrounds, the inclusion of what are apparently several events from the same story in one picture are all there. But there are differences, too.

The 8-by-8-inch works that constitute most of Scheinman's show are illustrations for children's books she has written and hopes to get published. As such, the narrative elements in them are both more specific and less readable than her earlier works, which were more or less autobiographical. Previously, it was easier to look at a Scheinman picture and make up a story to go with it -- probably because there is common ground in all our lives.

Now that the pictures illustrate specific stories, they are a little more distant. But that's not necessarily a minus. One tended to concentrate so much on the narrative aspects of Scheinman's previous work that it was possible to miss their sheer beauty. Either that, or there's more sheer beauty here than there was before, because these little gems are ravishing.

Certain elements in them stand out as particularly seductive: The blue stars in a lavender sky, the big sunflowers and the red borders of "Fallen Angels"; the lush green garden of "Evening Watch"; the beautiful greens, oranges and yellows of "Fragrance Comes Inside"; the luxurious profusion of the title flower in "Daylily Lie" are among the sensuous pleasures of these works.

Less successful are a group of larger Scheinman works; they are not as concentrated. "Domestic Daydreams," for instance, is a reworking of "Linen of the Night" to far less effect. Two exceptions are "Night Entangled Reverie" and "Wheel of Fire," in which Scheinman has been able to enlarge the scale without sacrificing the jewel-like quality.

Photographer Stephen Spartana, the current show's other artist, combines flower and human body imagery in composite photographs that emphasize the sensual curves of both.

These works have a veiled eroticism, whether or not the human body is included. In fact, some of the best works here are those of flowers alone, for their textures and subdued colors. Ultimately, Spartana's work -- or at least what's on view here -- has a certain sameness to it. Once you understand what he's doing, there's not a whole lot to sustain interest.

ART REVIEW

What: Nancy Scheinman and Stephen Spartana

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Aug. 6

Call: (410) 752-2080

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