Is it just me, or does it seem like this summer’s exhibition schedule is dominated by women artists? Not only are women playing increasingly major roles in group shows, but a number of solos this season are dedicated to women artists.
At Goodwin Fine Art, Danae Falliers/Re:Union and Brenda Biondo/Moving Pictures are technically solos, but since they’re displayed opposite each other, the shows interact. The photographers not only share a focus — views of the natural environment — but they both mess with their subject, using cameras in compelling ways. That makes these Goodwin shows worthy adjuncts to the Denver Art Museum’s important landscape photography exhibit, New Territory, which is just a few blocks away.
Dana Falliers was born and raised in Denver. After formal training in California, she returned periodically to town but is now based in Santa Fe. Her photos concentrate on the Western landscape, as seen through the filter of design and color theory. She calls her process “composite-based,” because to produce a piece, she might blend as many as eight separate images using assorted digital programs; while some of these can all be from the same place, others might depict different places. Too, while some of the base photos might be straightforward shots as captured through the lens, others have been monkeyed with through the camera’s settings. And all of the resulting pieces have been manipulated on the computer.
A good example of this complex process is “Prairie #29,” in which certain parts are crisply rendered while others are streaky blurs. The purple clouds in the background are depicted naturalistically and in complete focus, as is a skeletal fence, which is nearly black and stands out against the ground of the picture. But the grasslands themselves have been turned into twisted and braided strands of rich greens and yellows, with these elements stacked horizontally rather than vertically, the way grass grows. These compositional devices — horizontal bars — are employed so that they underscore the flatness of the depicted landscape. In addition to photos from her “Prairie” series, Falliers is represented by recent pieces from her “Winter” series, in which the intertwined strands of colored bars take over nearly the entire surface, with just a thick band of clear blue sky above to clue the viewers that they are looking at a landscape. These Falliers are extremely elegant compositions, made even better by the artist’s sensitive eye for color combinations that drench the prints in rich tones. Falliers acknowledges the debt that she owes to the skilled printers she works with to produce these perfectly done images, but the style is all hers.
Brenda Biondo, who lives and works in Manitou Springs, also uses a multi-step process to create her photo-based pieces depicting the sky. For the works in her “Paper Skies” series, Biondo begins by taking a photo of the sky. She prints the photo, alters it by cutting or bending, then holds it in front of the sky, moving it as she clicks the shutter. The initial photo depicting the sky tends to merge with the shot of the sky, and because the image has been cut and folded and moved, geometric shapes of light appear in different parts of the pictures.
Several photos from Biondo’s “Moving Pictures” series sport an orb of sky blue surrounded by a halo of sunset orange, with the single bold shape on each lending these photos a totemic quality; the linear compositions of others result in pieces that look more like banners. In both cases, though, the works have the character of soft geometric abstractions, even if they are actually photos of a piece of paper set against the sky. Biondo links her work to the conceptual light pieces of James Turrell, and I can see what she means — but I’d say her work has more kinship with another artist associated with that California-based light movement, Robert Irwin. These Biondos, especially those with the orb in the center, have an undeniable light-as-space, Irwin-esque quality.
Over at K Contemporary, the second-floor gallery has another noteworthy solo, Carlene Frances: Seijaku. The focus of Carlene Frances’s work is not the Western landscape, but Eastern aesthetics and philosophy, as indicated by the title. The Japanese word seijaku refers to a sense of tranquility in the midst of disorder, and this ethos is the theme of these paintings. Though they are lyrical, comprising expertly blended grounds over which are freely drawn circles and bars, Frances intends them to represent the troublesome political reality we find ourselves in right now. Looking at these serene paintings, it’s hard to believe they are meant as a kind of resistance, but then again, that’s what seijaku refers to: a peaceful escape from the chaos.
In discussing her work, Frances mentions the Internet’s role in making things worse by conveying hate speech and fake news. She attempts to counter this with the Seijaku paintings, basing their forms on the binary computer code of zeroes and ones. In these pieces, the zeroes become circles and the ones become bars, with the two elements freely associated across the surface. A few actually have lines of facsimile binary codes running in the background, but their inclusion is subtle — not just because they are partly covered over by the circles and bars, but also because they were faintly painted in to begin with. Each painting has its own limited palette of just a few predominant tones, yet Frances’s use of layer upon layer of oil glazes gives them an internal luminance. The results are complex and often majestic. The larger works are particularly striking.
As summer draws to a close, these three solos remind us of the strength of an individual artist’s vision — regardless of gender.
Danae Falliers and Brenda Biondo, through September 8, Goodwin Fine Art, 1255 Delaware Street, 303-573-1255, goodwinfineart.com.
Carlene Frances, through August 25, K Contemporary, 1412 Wazee Street, 303-590-9800, kcontemporaryart.com.
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