Object Lessons

In the small back gallery is more evidence of painting's dominance in Objects of Personal Significance, with more notable examples of realism. In the enigmatic oil on board "Still Life With Puppets" (1992-1993), Santa Fe artist Carol Mothner covers most of the panel in glossy black, with the exception of a rectangle at the top that depicts a room with marionettes. The puppets, and the checkered tile floor on which they sit, recall the work of Italy's Scuola Metafisica, a kind of early-twentieth-century surrealism. Susan Jane Walp also plumbs the depths of modern art history in a gorgeous, small oil on linen from 1992 that has the highly descriptive title "Eggs in a Green Bowl With Thread, Knife, Button and Fork." The work pays homage to 1930s precisionism as, using an awkward and stilted perspective, Walp elegantly fits her simplified and conventionalized pictorial elements into a geometric, puzzle-like arrangement.

In another back gallery is the show's only abstract painting, an autobiographical mixed media on canvas by New Mexico artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. In "Mixed Blood," a large, nearly square painting from 1992, she places a line drawing of a hand across a field of red that includes newspaper clippings and the image of an American flag. As usual, Smith's subject is her struggle as a woman who is part Indian in America.

Among the last works in Marquardt-Cherry's portion are two realist paintings. The foreground of "Mother and Child," a 1990 photo-realistic pastel on paper by New Englander Janet Monafo, shows a sulking teenage girl who looks away from a scowling older woman; it's as though they've paused while arguing. Chicago artist Lorraine Pelz lines up long-stemmed yellow roses, many of them wilting, and lays them against a luscious gray field in the marvelous 1994 oil on canvas "Graph No. 2."

Perisho's section of Objects of Personal Significance, which is devoted to work by local women, picks up in the center's two side galleries. Perisho took an approach distinctly different from Marquardt-Cherry's, and though many of the locals lack the technical polish of their national cohorts, they more than make up for that with artistic courage. Perisho has selected many conceptual artists, several abstractionists and quite a few who work in three dimensions.

One of the first things the viewer encounters in this part of the show is the 1996 sculpture "Dance of the Eleven Veils," by Virginia Folkestad. Though her considerable reputation has been built by her critically acclaimed installations, lately Folkestad has turned to sculpture. Here Folkestad creates a table made of a plank of basswood supported by two sets of metal legs. On top of the plank, Folkestad lays pencils that have been sharpened into nubs and wraps them in white thread that unravels in piles on the floor. The work seems to vaguely address the oppression of women.

Nearby is another sculpture by an established talent, Lorre Hoffman. For the 1998 "Daily Bread," Hoffman successfully uses a slice of bread cast in clear glass and placed on a wooden plate. The unexpected use of materials, especially the glass, puts a new slant on this otherwise common sight.

Elsewhere, Carley Warren, who's been getting a lot of play lately, displays two figural sculptures. Each includes a man made of carved wood, one standing and one seated, in a wooden cage painted black. And Ellen Sollod uses found objects both as elements and as sources for her quirky wall-mounted sculptures. In "La citta dell' a'nimo," from 1996, Sollod has taken a squash, split it in half, cast it in bronze and steel and hung the two halves on the wall side by side. Her rich, dark patina on the cast metal is particularly nice.

Several of the artists in this part of Objects of Personal Significance use soft materials such as fabric to create sculptural work. Linda Herritt's two wall-hung reliefs from 1996, both titled "Form Fatale," are made of pink-colored sequined material. In 1997's "Her Passion," Susan Meyer Fenton, who, like Herritt, is known as an installation artist, hangs pink fabric from the ceiling in a dress-like form with a black velvet gash at the bottom.

Though sculpture abounds in Perisho's portion of the exhibit, there's no shortage of first-rate paintings and drawings. Standouts include Shelley Hull's diminutive, acrylic-on-paper depictions of engine parts, Helen Rageb's abstract watercolors and Kristen Peterson's eerie still-life paintings of cloth-draped tables. Also well-done is a 1998 multi-part grid by Lauri Lynnxe Murphy (who sometimes contributes illustrations to Westword). "Polygenesis" is the type of painting that's appeared nearly everywhere in recent months, and deservedly, Murphy is rapidly becoming one of the city's art stars. Unlike Murphy's, Jean Schiff's work is rarely seen, but she makes a big contribution to Objects of Personal Significance with her dense and delicate 1997 mixed-media drawing "High on Thai," which uses a shadow puppet from Thailand as a taking-off point.

Though it's a women's art show, Objects of Personal Significance does not make clear how women's art is different from men's except, perhaps, thematically. Maybe that's the point Marquardt-Cherry and Perisho are making.

Objects of Personal Significance, through October 14 at the Center for the Visual Arts, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.

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