EXHIBIT REVIEW: "Drawn from Nature"


Heidi Edwards' "Yellow Marsh"








“Drawn from Nature” at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art takes a walk on the wild side with images of nature by Jean Blackburn, Deborah Brown, Heidi Edwards, Joyce Ely-Walker, Michele Harvey, Nancy Hellebrand, Susan Klein, Andrew Kuziak and William Nichols. It's another punning title, implying artistic alchemy -- a distillation of nature in paint and graphite. The brew is intoxicating and not entirely safe.

Heidi Edwards art reveals a fascination with the vastness of Florida’s flat topography -- and all the weird vistas and collisions of color our flat spaces create. "Yellow Marsh" is one of these uncanny spaces. It's realistic, but barely. It feels like an abstraction, at first. Then the form slowly emerges. A splash of color at the boundary of land and sky -- just barely recognizable as a landscape. A scene at the boundaries of the Everglades' river of grass, perhaps. The scene you see when you suddenly realize what you're looking at.


Susan Klein's "O, What a Beautiful Painting"

Susan Klein captures the Eden-like vistas of Myakka River State Park with her vibrant, gold-flecked acrylic paintings. More accurately, she captures her heightened experience of the land. It's not a literal record. The fields of color are highly defined and a little surreal. "O, What a Beautiful Painting" reveals a moss-draped live oak above a purple canopy, a landscape of orange tree trunks and chartreuse sky behind it. Not the real thing. What the real thing feels like to an open mind -- its doors of perception open and cleansed.

Bill Nichols doesn't look at nature from a distance. His large-scale paintings offer up-close-and-personal views of wild spaces. Dense, tangled intricacy -- not chaos but a complex system. Nichols' "First Light" reveals a back-lit stand of trees, undergrowth and scrub below, the filtered, sunrise shining through. It's a pretty scene -- and scientifically accurate. Some trees are healthy, some collapsing back into the forest floor. Beauty aside, it's a snapshot of process in time.


Bill Nichols' "First Light"

Jean Blackburn has a single artistic love -- an obsession with natural Florida. But she expresses that love with more than one style. "Sweetwater Springs 5" is one of her photorealistic paintings, though the term doesn't do it justice. Her image of a diver plunging below the water's surface is clearly taken from high-speed photography -- the human eye simply can't capture that kind of ephemeral detail. Reality, yes -- but that's news to the human eye. This isn't what we think water looks like -- it's what water really looks like. And it's weird, wonderful, surprising and strange.


Jean Blackburn's "Sweetwater Springs 5"


ART REVIEW: Drawn from Nature. TODAY, Friday, Aug. 1-Oct. 25 at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, 1288 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. 366-2454.
Last modified: August 1, 2014
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