Inside, Outside

In "Margin," a self-portrait in acrylic on wood, Greenig puts himself in front of a wall of well-known movie posters, including those for Psycho and Bride of Frankenstein. This piece is uncharacteristic of Greenig's other work. It's so meticulously detailed that it looks like a color photograph rather than a painting, and the palette is dominated by fire-engine reds and taxicab yellows.

Across the room are paintings by Gilboy, who now lives in Philadelphia but has maintained her connections to this area since receiving her MFA at CU in 1981. Several of Gilboy's paintings are dense still-life compositions that include realist and surrealist elements. In the oil-on-linen "A Little Offering," she places a pair of juicy-looking purple plums on a pink tray in the foreground; in the background is a distorted woman's face. In another oil on linen, "Deep Blue Sea," two golden apples are seen up close at the bottom of the painting and also just above in their mirrored reflection.

In many ways, the show upstairs in the second-floor galleries, Woods, organized by Kathy Andrews, the Arvada Center's head curator, is almost an extension of Still Reality. This exhibit, too, has a misleading title: Woods is not about forests, but rather about the nature of the material itself. The organizing themes of Still Reality and Woods are so open-ended that the participants could easily be shifted from one to another. And Kunkel even paints on masonite, a wood product, while Greenig uses actual wood.

Instead, Woods starts with a thorough exploration of Denver sculptor Carley Warren's "Branches, Traps and Cages" series of abstract wall-mounted sculptures. Warren begins by cutting up machine-planed dowels that she then reassembles into twiglike configurations. In "Branches, Traps and Cages #7," the first piece in this show, Warren intertwines three of the dowels reformulated as twigs and nestles within them a form made of woven pipe cleaners that recalls a bird.

Most of Warren's sculptures have essentially this same format: three wavering horizontal lines with an abstract, if evocative, woven form caught among them. In some pieces, Warren has let the natural color of the dowels show through; in others she uses painted finishes. Her technique is highly polished, with the joinery and the finish of the wood done precisely, as is the tying, bending and weaving of the fuzzy pipe cleaners. "Branches, Traps and Cages #11" is the only vertically oriented sculpture in the show, and it's interesting to note that her formula works just as well, if not better, turned on its side.

Beyond the section devoted to Warren are some luscious recent paintings by Judith Lightfield, a Red Rocks Community College art instructor. Her link to the Woods theme is twofold: She paints on masonite, and her chosen subject is trees. Lightfield's paintings are nearly abstract with thick, heavy smears of paint; the trees, painted brown, are glimpsed as if through a haze that joins the ground to the sky. Her palette is stunning, recalling a sunset in a Maxfield Parrish painting, all pinks, teals and golds, and she imbues her colors with a remarkable degree of luminosity. Under the gallery's track lights, these landscapes gleam.

In "Negative Space," an acrylic on board, Lightfield sets two groves of trees on either side of her vertical composition, then guides the viewer's eyes up the middle and into the sky, which dominates the painting. The scrumbled character of the sky, with its rusty pink clouds against a light blue background, suggests both the old masters and the abstract expressionists--quite a feat.

Woods closes out with paintings and watercolors by Englewood's Shelley Hull, which are displayed off to the side. Hull, whose style is both simple and sophisticated, juxtaposes nature with figures and machinery. In many of these paintings, she creates compositions that have a large central element bracketed by a pair of complementary forms, all of which are set over a defined area across the bottom. This hieratic structure has its roots in the altar screens of the Middle Ages that show the dead Christ at the bottom surmounted by the crucifixion, with Christ in the center and the two thieves on either side. But Hull substitutes pine cones, trees and car parts for the sacred subjects.

Nowhere does Hull better incorporate this contrasting of dissimilar images than in a series of recent acrylic-and-colored-pencil-on-paper pieces from her "Mechanics of Desire" series. Here Hull sets drawings of engines and machinery within a landscape populated by trees that have grown together and become intertwined. Given the title, these pieces seem to be about the differences between men and women.

The artists in Still Reality and Woods take myriad approaches to making realistic painting vital. Whether they succeed is open to debate, but their work is certainly fun to view--and what could be more worthwhile?

Still Reality: Narrative and Interior Paintings , through August 30, and Woods, through August 23, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 431-3939.

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