'Migrations' showcases spark if not true spontaneity

September 01, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

"Migrations," the show of three artists' works at School 33, deals with migrations of two kinds: visual and mental. According to the gallery's statement, in the process of creation, each artist's work goes through a migration (or simply a change), either from abstract to representational or the other way around. And these changes relate to the artists' mental processes, involving the physical, psychological and spiritual realms.

It's an interesting theme for a show, and the artists fit it well, though they aren't all equally successful.

Richard Dana's paintings stand out, but they don't appear as spontaneous as the gallery's statement seems to imply. "Beginning each canvas abstractly," it says, "figures and objects begin to emerge as he works through the painting process." Dana's works look as if they are far more calculated than that, but their success is undeniable. On abstract backgrounds, figures or parts of figures engage in symbolic activities.

In "Doubleness," a figure reaches for a bar held above him by his shadow. In "Poetic Burden," a small bird perches on a hand. In "Upward Event," the figure of a man takes flight with a bird, and in "Blue Wish," a large bird resembling a falcon perches on a man's arm. The reaching and the birds symbolize the freedom, probably spiritual, that earthbound man wishes for but finds elusive. Dana is a highly accomplished painter, and his skills endow these works with authority.

Laurel Farrin's paintings and combined painting/sculptures deal with a more psychological world, an effort to reach the self of the mind. The best of them, "A Heart Will Travel to Itself," consists of two areas of abstract painting, the lighter one above and the darker one below; where they meet in the center of the canvas, fingers above reach out to touch fingers below. They leave the impression that two bodies have all but disappeared into these clouds of abstraction, which may stand for any number of dualities -- earth and air, body and mind, head and heart, positive and negative forces. Farrin's paintings are better than her combinations of painting and sculpture, which look a bit affected.

Josephine Murray's combinations of painting and drawing are the most energetic works here. Like Dana's works (and unlike Farrin's, which go in the opposite direction), they begin as abstractions and end as figural paintings. Populated by the female figure, animals, angels, dynamic swirls of cloud or water, they are in some ways more specific than either Farrin's or Dana's works. But their complexity makes their meaning somewhat elusive. It's not clear whether these are about oneness with nature, a feminist ideal, religious conviction or perhaps some synthesis of these elements in which oneness with nature has religious and feminist implications.

Like the other artists here, Murray has a lot of talent, and her work makes a positive contribution to a thought-provoking show.


What: "Migrations"

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Sept. 23

Call: (410) 396-4641

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