Given all the superhero movies out there these days the notion of what constitutes a goddess is up for grabs.
Emily Dubowski contributes to the pantheon of female archetypes with her current exhibit of full-length portraits of nine contemporary women posed as mythological deities. If her subjects look deceptively real, it’s because they are.
Dubowski, who has worked as a realist painter for 55 years, spent two years on this series, choosing women she knew for her profiles of various Grecian goddesses.
(If the names Persephone, Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera are not familiar, Ward & Ward Fine Art Framing and Galleryhas provided a cheat sheet with a brief description of each mythological character).
While the participants chose their own jewelry and clothes to wear, Dubowski placed them in specific, invented backgrounds suitable to their character’s legendary heritage. The results are conceptually and visually compelling.
Hestia is the goddess of the hearth. Here she leans on a pillar of stones, and although the model in this case was actually pregnant, she is depicted modestly covered by a shawl.
Demeter, the goddess of grain, was the mother of Persephone, a young, innocent maiden abducted by the god of the underworld. Dubowski used an actual mother/daughter pair for the two separate artworks, creating a genuine frisson between the two paintings installed side by side.
Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, was one of the first real feminists of legend. Here the artist asked her granddaughter to be the model, who complied and wore shorts, a T-shirt and sunglasses, staring straight at the viewer with what can only be described as attitude.
These are perfectly painted portraits, but the strength of this show lies in the artist’s ability to portray real women whose demeanor ranges from moody to regal to wistful and erotic.
Classical mythology seldom feels this immediate.
Meanwhile, at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Leedy wanted to celebrate 30 years in the business.
To do so she curated the group exhibit “In Good Company,” which includes the work of 12 artists who live around the country but who have been affiliated with the Midwest.
She wanted to demonstrate that “over time the gallery has been privileged to work with amazing artists and collectors in our community and throughout the country. We have always been in good company and that experience is the core of this exhibition.”
The show has examples of abstract and realist paintings, works on paper, drawings, prints, and sculpture.
“There is no stylistic commonality here,” Leedy says. “I trust my own instincts about artists’ works. But all the artists here are very committed about what they do.”
Leedy clearly responds to intense color, pattern, and layering. Every piece in the exhibit is also process-oriented, the result of real technical skill. She has little interest in haphazardly constructed artworks that get casually pinned to the wall, a staple of many conceptually based art exhibitions of the last three decades.
Leedy is an artist herself, and she acknowledges that “this show probably says as much about me as it does about the individual artists.” “In Good Company” resonates with a sound Midwestern work ethic and visually persuasive imagery.
The sandwiched layering of Mary Ann Strandell’s lenticular prints exemplify the sophisticated, digitized possibilities of today’s print media, matched by a maker’s vision that takes full advantage of those complexities. Strandell’s pictorial fusion of such elements as modernist interior design with rococo chandeliers and Asian figurines creates a hypnagogic effect and the end result is a dream for any would-be time traveler. She deserves her international reputation.
St. Louis-based artist Tom Huck uses a more traditional printmaking medium, woodcut, to create the wildly baroque, biographical triptych “The Muther Load, Ad Oculos, The Violation of Rhoda Rocket.”
Bawdy humor mixed with extraordinary graphic ability is typical with Huck’s art, and these huge prints — each is 5 feet tall — are a tour de force.
The art of Amir H. Fallah is new to this area, but he is scheduled for an exhibition at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art this year.
Born in Iran in 1979 and now based in Los Angeles, Fallah is a sculptor and installation artist as well as a painter. He shows in Europe and the Middle East. Leedy selected six of his paintings for this show, which deal with identity and perhaps hidden agendas, as his subjects are typically covered in textiles. These pieces make one want to see more of his work.
Other artists in this show include Anne Austin Pearce, Kent Michael Smith, Caleb Taylor, Damon Freed, Jane Booth, Kiel Johnson, Larry Thomas, Mark Cowardin and Bill Hassell, who have been shown multiple times over the years at Leedy’s gallery. Together they make an impressive ensemble.
▪ “In Good Company” continues at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art through May 23. For more information, go to SherryLeedy.com.
▪ “Modern Goddesses” by Emily Dubowski continues at Ward & Ward Fine Art Framing and Gallery through May 2.