The Charlotte Observer
Meaning is 'Embodied' in pleasant form
By Linda Luise Brown
Special to the Observer
Posted: Friday, Aug. 13, 2010
The current show at Lark & Key's South End gallery location is all about form - the human form - and all in good taste. Three of the four artists showing in "Embodied" depict the whole person in figurative, drawing-based compositions; the fourth, ceramist Paula Smith, focuses only on the torso of the feminine form.
Walking into the gallery is a soothing yet mentally stimulating experience. The ambience tends toward a calm aesthetic, one that has been shaped over the years by the gallery creators, Sandy Snead and Duy Huynh. They have done this by limiting the work they show to art that demonstrates a calm, yet intellectual color palette and meditative content, even when it involves jewelry and traditional ceramics.
Duy Huynh (pronounced Yee Wun), himself one of the artists in "Embodied," is Vietnamese by birth, and has developed his art for more than 20 years living in the U.S. In this show his paintings are infused with a golden hue, pleasant to behold, and deceptively simple at first glance, with high quality craftsmanship. One can get lost in these paintings, and use them as meditative objects with their ethereal, otherworldly presence. It's easy to understand the popularity of this artist with the fairytale feelings conveyed in work such as "Moonlight Meandering," or in "Featherweight," with its attenuated feminine form joined by 10 whooping cranes, set within a dream-like landscape.
Elizabeth D'Angelo's unusual combination of oil paint applied to carved wood takes her through a process in which she "symbolically carves into the surface of exteriors ... into what is just beneath the surface." This interesting technique, utilized in such work as "The Prison of the Past Is Illusory," suits the surreal quality of her imagery involving people, fruits and vegetables.
Susan Hall conveys a subtle presence in her work with figures "softly obscured by a veil of lace." She applies thin layers of oil upon the delicate pattern made by laying lace over the panel, and this technique has the most impact when the tonal range of the hue is widest.
Paula Smith, the ceramics instructor at CPCC, follows a formula she has developed over 10 years for a continuing series of sculptural quasi-portraits of her daughter. Sweet at first glance, petite feminine torsos such as "Girl with Tags," appear merely pretty at first, decorated as they are with tiny birds or lace, or embellished with a feather duster as in "Feather Duster, Sweet Sixteen."
But beneath the pleasing surfaces is a smattering of something darker, spicier, or more of a personal story within: something about the bittersweet relationship of mother and daughter, perhaps. This work is immaculate, even obsessive, with expert technique.
Much of the work at Lark & Key tends to be soft focus, pleasant, like a nice poem. All four of the artists in "Embodied" "explore the physical and emotional nature of the human form and its relationship to the world it inhabits, real or imagined," and if this type of art doesn't have the sort of exciting boldness and initial visual impact of, say, the Robert Motherwells currently at Melberg Gallery, they make up for this with subtlety of meaning and quality of craftsmanship.
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By Alan G. Artner
Tribune art critic
Published September 22, 2006
Susan Hall's recent paintings at the Melanee Cooper Gallery provide images of women caught in tranquil or introspective situations. The model for this is the art of Jan Vermeer, though one sees possible later influences including Symbolist painting of the 1890s and Ingmar Bergman's 1966 film "Persona."
The Symbolist connection comes through the oil on panel titled "Nocturne," which depicts a covered sleeper in blue-white light. The light, as in nearly all of the pictures, is bright but softened by the superimposition of various all-over decorative patterns derived from wallpaper or lace. These give the sensation of viewing the figure through a screen that in "Nocturne" successfully suggests the muffled fantasy of sleep.
"Persuasion" has two women shown side by side, apparently partially nude. Some sort of urging or convincing is taking place, but who is the active figure and who the one being induced remains as vague as what is being urged. Here the peaks and pocks of thick paint combined with brighter color -- a peach-orange -- convey less than a serene atmosphere, and if still subdued, the break in Hall's calm is welcome.
Her newest pieces are of lone women wading in water. These have patterns embossed or incised, too, though treating more of the figures outside eliminates the earlier claustrophobia and some of the artist's characteristic softening.
Critics' Picks, January 18, 2007
SUSAN HALL A painter from Chicago, Hall's current work overlays lovingly rendered human figures with the detailed patterns of lace and vintage wall coverings. The figures, mostly women, have a contemplative quality that recalls the quiet moments in 17th century Dutch painting or the 19th century Pre-Raphaelites. Her work takes obvious pleasure in both the human face and form, and in the intricate patterns traditionally made by women and found in the domestic realm. Hall's works are on display at Gallery One through Feb. 17. There's a reception for the artist 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 20.
Friday, 01/19/07 Nashville, Tennessee
Look behind the veils
Looking at a painting by Chicago artist Susan Hall, the featured artist in Gallery One's latest exhibit, is akin to peering through a gauzy curtain: Bathed in a warm glow, these female figures lie underneath a layer of lace or some other decorative pattern that has been worked into the surface.
With her experience in printmaking, Hall brings the nuances of texture to her oil paintings, and the resulting works beg the viewer to consider his or her relationship to the image: It's easy to feel a little like a voyeur gawking at these women, with their furtive or contemplative poses. Hall's decision to place these figures behind lacy patterns also can be read as a meditation on trappings of femininity -- the veils, both literal and figurative, that have effectively cut women off from the society of men.
The show opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and runs through Feb. 17. Gallery One is in Belle Meade Galleria, 5133 Harding Road. For more information, call (615) 352-3006 or visit www.galleryone.biz.
— JONATHAN MARX, STAFF WRITER