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Artists discuss their work in ‘People, Places and Things’ 

Now the party’s over – Gallery at Avalon Island show closes Saturday

click to enlarge 'MELANCHOLY LANDSCAPE NO. 2' BY COUNTESS PAYNE
  • 'Melancholy Landscape No. 2' by Countess Payne

ARTIST TALKS: PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS

On a quiet corner downtown, the current incarnation of the Gallery at Avalon Island has created a niche in the creative vortex known as the Downtown Arts District Third Thursday Gallery Hop. Art explorers might start at CityArts Factory or peruse work in nontraditional settings like bars and other businesses, but they eventually seem to end up at Avalon. But outside the Third Thursday hoopla, there’s a new Avalon tradition: artist talks on sunny Saturdays get people downtown yet again to experience the art in a different atmosphere.

This month’s show, People, Places and Things, brings together four artists – Grady Kimsey, Anna McCambridge, Spencer Pettit and Countess Payne – in a suite of introspective images at once dark and bright. On the café side of the gallery, a small installation details a project from the ongoing Transit Interpretation Project: Wearing the 8 by Bethany Mikell, Kelly Berry and Megan Steward. McCambridge, Pettit and Mikell speak about their work noon Saturday, the last day of the show.

noon Saturday, July 12 | Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S. Magnolia Ave. | avalongallery.org | free

Kimsey, trained as a painter, moved into found-object sculpture, making figures of rare emotional quality and personality; he has gone back to painting recently. “Harbor Light,” an oil on canvas, is a delicate atmospheric frisson of colors that captures a waterfront scene just before the storm hits. “The Mentor,” a classic Kimsey figure, stands with a slightly disapproving glower, clad in soft yarn, fist ready to lower upon a disappointing protégé. Kimsey’s maturity yields years of work of supreme depth and sets the bar for this grouping of artists.

McCambridge, with birds as her theme, delves even deeper with pieces like “Hummingbird,” a colored-pencil portrait of a girl on black gesso. The darkness gives her contemplation of a small bird a somber, almost elegiac motif. In contrast, the animal intensity on the crow’s face in “Fury Jetsam: Your Heart Will Heal” speaks of passion; indeed, the penciled poem under the crow’s feet is tragic, somehow unfinished, a story ripped out of a larger narrative of love and endings left open.

The bird perched on the shoulder of Pettit’s “MRI With Sparrow” seems thankfully immune to medical scanning rays. It’s a good thing, for the figure’s privacy seems somehow violated, his deep maroon flesh sitting heavy on the painting. This Mount Dora artist’s work covers a wide range of media: charming gardenscapes in oil; sculpture (the melancholic, samurai-like “Sculpture 1” made from waxed corrugated cardboard); a soft-focus graphite self-portrait that confronts the viewer with sensitive, unsmiling, intelligent eyes and a sense of longing for truth.

Truth does come through in the work of Countess Payne (her nom de brush, not an aristocratic title), a local artist currently living in Croatia. Romanticizing man-made structures, Payne’s four hand-colored photographs on ceiling-to-floor scrolls depict technological towers dominating a flat landscape.

Unlovely trusses, wires, microwave dishes and scarred brick walls arise into gray-blue skies. The symbol-rich messages of science float on these tapestries, scrawled circuit diagrams and machines, an urgent shorthand of truth suggesting an equivalence with beauty.

Strength of eye and heart are necessary to appreciate these paintings and sculptures, but they are somehow not a bring-down on our long summer days. Instead, they invite the viewer into a glimpse of the private world carried within. Birds, radio dishes, landscapes and portraits are but vehicles for viewers to see themselves differently and come back to the here-and-now with a new sensibility of the place we inhabit, inside and outside.

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