Donelson explores color

October 23, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

A major pleasure of Deborah Donelson's work is that it doesn't stagnate. She continues to develop, as her current exhibit at Gomez Gallery proves.

In the early 1990s, her paintings were concerned with a search for self. Then, in her 1995 show, some paintings exhibited a new sense of self-worth and confidence, while others explored subjects in the history of art and literature. That show also demonstrated her control and mastery of color.

In her seven paintings at Gomez, she appears interested in exploring color for its own sake, in an abstract way. Her pictures are still representational, are still populated with women and can have themes. In "The World Tree," the tree grows out of the woman's womb, apparently symbolizing the female of the species as the mother of all creation.

But more often, what's pictured in the image seems a conduit for the real subject matter, which is color.

"Mermaid Resting" shows a mermaid, a lobster and a fish in the water, and just above it a bird on some branches. But what really sings here is the color, the sensuous blues and greens set off by the touch of red. In "Girl with Geisha Doll" we notice all the colors -- the blue, green, yellow and red -- but especially the color and patterning of the girl's yellow skirt with reddish brown figures. "Waders" isn't really about its two figures so much as the deep red and blue costume of one of them against the rich yellow background, and the way the green water below seems to be created out of the blue and yellow.

That's not to say that Donelson has gone weakly decorative. These works find strength in their beauty, and beauty in their mastery of color. She has also expanded her repertoire from painting into drawings and etchings, both with watercolor added. In these she turns from bold to delicate color, with happier results in the prints. The drawings with watercolor seem a little tentative, but in the prints, the balance between image and color works consistently.

Two months ago in its photography gallery, Gomez presented a group of color still lifes by the renowned Spanish photographer Toni Catany. This month, the gallery features a group of Catany's black and white male nudes.

His nudes have something in common with Donelson's work. For the male body isn't depicted so much for its own sake as for the exploration of abstract, formal concerns such as the interplay of light and shadow and of tone and texture; the melodiousness of rounded forms compared with the rhythms of angular ones; and the blending or contrast of foreground and background elements.

These studies are neither psychological nor erotic, but use the body much as one would use an object in a still life. Interestingly enough, Catany's still lifes are more content-oriented and emotionally charged, while his nudes are more form-oriented and cerebral.

At Gomez

What: Works by Deborah Donelson and Toni Catany

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m Sundays; through Nov. 16

Call: 410-752-2080

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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