Photographs by Courtesy of Cantrell Gallery
Fall Garden by John Deering evokes a Maxfield Parrish vibe in Deering’s exhibit “Little Rock Journal.”
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
A warm intimacy embraces viewers of the 13 works that make up "Little Rock Journal," John Deering's new exhibit at Cantrell Gallery.
Most times when Deering, who is also chief editorial cartoonist for the Democrat-Gazette, has shown new work, large canvases command the space, whether he's exploring animal imagery that taps whimsy, folkloric themes and human commentary, Western or Civil War-era scenes and romantic portraits and landscapes.
This time, the works are smaller in size but larger in emotion as Deering returns to a much-loved subject -- home. It's not the first time he has approached Little Rock for inspiration. As he looks at the capital city, he captures what we may pass every day and might look at, but don't really see -- familiar sites such as the Big Dam Bridge and downtown Little Rock buildings. His Big Dam Bridge work is vague, its details obscured. Suddenly, we're not sure we remember what it really does look like, but the painting captures that sense of motion of people walking, running, cycling over it. By contrast, Doorway 3:00 PM has precise architectural details as it plays beautifully with light and shadow.
But Deering is at his most revealing and commanding when he captures the details and emotions of the human presence.
Two works in particular haunt the viewer with their quiet power.
On Long Ride Home, a woman sitting on the bus and holding a book gazes out the window. Did something catch her eye or is she lost in thought? Her face is magnetic, radiating strength tinged with weariness. In the powerful Arrow, a homeless man sits at the side of a street with his rolled-up sleeping bag, his hood pulled over a ballcap. Deering takes an impressionist approach of the man and the setting. But the features of the man's face are in sharp focus in this melancholy, moving work.
Deering's skillful brush work, superb use of shadow and light and well-balanced color choices set the mood in the engaging Fall Garden, with its hints of a Maxfield Parrish romanticism and nostalgia. The warm light radiating from the home's windows is inviting, but the figure outside in the garden seems reluctant to go inside. As the end of the day nears, he is perhaps soaking in the garden's beauty one last time before it succumbs to seasonal change. A bittersweet resignation to change.
For those who appreciate Deering's darker images, Pumpkin is one of his best. A man, standing next to an oil drum with a fire blazing inside, is selling pumpkins from the back of his pickup. But look closer ... are they pumpkins or skulls? The light and shadow plays with the mind and imagination.
Deering's smaller scale and rich palette makes this "Journal" a fascinating look at his hometown.
John Deering, "Little Rock Journal," through Dec. 23. Cantrell Gallery, 8206 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, (501) 224-1335. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
"THEIR NEW WORKS"
A strong and thoughtful exhibition by painters Robin Hazard and Susan Chambers and sculptor Hamid Ebrahimifar is the current offering at Boswell Mourot Fine Art.
Hazard and Chambers, who embrace color with a passion, find inspiration in landscapes and gardens. Ebrahimifar works with wood, rock and clay to create sculptures that can radiate hard-won serenity and also offer commentary on personal relationships and social issues.
Hazard, who works in pastels and oil, is focused on landscapes of Arkansas and in Texas, where she currently resides. Night Window Over My Backyard is a vivid pastel of a night scene as viewed perhaps from a half-dream state; it invites recollections of Matisse. Hazard's backyard clearly is a fascinating place, as My Crazy & Wonderful Backyard, II, shows. The pastel work is boldly designed, the tree and plants richly textured; light and shadow add a sense of mystery.
On Great Awakenings, a 48-by-60-inch mystical oil on canvas that invites contemplation, Hazard reaches even deeper to encourage the viewer to become aware of the beauty that surrounds us or perhaps the great mystery itself.
Chambers, who turns to her garden for inspiration, creates bold canvases that hint at abstraction and an inner journey of her own. Her acrylic on linen works also play with perspective using texture, placement and color to give depth to her boldly colored paintings.
The main character in Jackson in the Garden is a black and white dog walking amid green plants, a textured deep blue walkway and brightly colored sunflowers and peppers. The leaf patterns are fascinating. In Crazy Quilt Garden -- a 36-by-48-inch work -- a variety of plants competes for our attention, but the undulating shapes and fascinating textures make this a harmonious delight.
Ebrahimifar's previous clay sculptures have embraced yoga-like stances and meditation postures. This time, he uses cypress wood, rocks, bricks and more in works that broaden his scope thematically and visually. Meditation is the focus of the large-scale cypress wood sculpture Centered. Two other painted clay works, Searching for Grace and Grace, are a journey to realization.
The artist uses a brick with holes for the base of Embattled, which is topped by a painted clay figure with holes in its back and a brick wall at its front. Ebrahimifar says the piece was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Divided, a bust giving an appearance of a colorful Picasso-esque puzzle, reflects the theme of cultural/political division, while Core Love draws upon love as strength and inspiration.
But the artist has never been more graceful than in the alluring cypress sculpture Dancer.
Robin Hazard, Susan Chambers, Hamid Ebrahimifar, "Their New Works," Boswell Mourot Fine Art, 5815 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, (501) 664-0030. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and by appointment.
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