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Art of Their Dreams : Tina Atkins and Teri Yarbrow have differing styles, but 'dig from the heritage of the past.' Their works are at Orlando Gallery.

June 04, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

The artistic backgrounds of Tina Atkins and Teri Yarbrow, who live in Encino, couldn't be more dissimilar.

Yarbrow graduated from CalArts, work ing in the tradition of abstract Expressionist painting. Today, she paints what she refers to as "Earth works," likening herself to an archeologist who "brings images up from the Earth," she said.

Atkins taught herself to paint. Her original focus was the realistic portrayal of animals and jungles that were once part of Mayan, Aztec and American Indian civilizations. She encountered them on trips with her husband to jungles in, among other places, the South Pacific, Costa Rica and the Yucatan in Mexico. In recent years, she has become more concerned with the spirit of the animals rather than their physical realities.

Upon first looking at Atkins' "Animal Icons" and Yarbrow's "Earthly Shrines," on view at the Orlando Gallery, their work would seem to have little in common. But both are "digging from the heritage of the past," gallery director Bob Gino said. "The sensibilities of their work overlap."

And for both, the images of their art come to them first in their dreams. In no way simplistic fantasies, these are compelling inner journeys the artists choose to reveal to the world on canvas.

Yarbrow's deep, dark, turbulent red-and-purple visions of Earth on arch-shaped canvases are based on dreams of herself going into the Earth to excavate a number of images.

"The paintings are less about the illustration of my dreams than they are about conveying a sense that the Earth is alive, imminent, in everything," Yarbrow said. "The dark images are coming up from a place that's been pushed down. The need for motion and dynamism is also not to illustrate the visions, but to evoke the experience for the viewer."

Yarbrow pours oil paint and metallic pigments on her canvases to generate the organic subject matter of her work. The paintings "Aeon," "In the Heart of the Fire" and "Phoenix" together symbolize inner exploration and transformation.

"The act of painting itself is a sacred way, a doorway to the extraordinary, a path of transformation," Yarbrow said. "The purpose of this work is to discover my own mythology."

The animals rising from the pallet of Atkins' paintings--a horse, jaguar, elk, coyote, lizard and iguana--beckon to her in her dreams to "paint the spirit of them," she said. "Every living thing has its own special energy. I try to capture some of this with paint. These shrines are psychic landscapes, not real places or real animals."

Her energetic "Red Lizard" is a symbol of wholeness. "Blue Star Bunny" is a transmutation of fear into strength. The coyote of "Trickster Heart" is a supernatural creature. The sensual "Dancing Jaguar" is "tearing a hole between the physical world and something else," presenting a way of being female that is free from a man's projection of what being female is, she said.

Atkins has surrounded each image with a beading pattern emphasizing the shrine-like nature of her work. She has embedded paintings with colorful semiprecious stones, rhinestones and mirror fragments, suggesting a feminine attitude, and drawing the viewer into her work.

Several works also contain papier-mache animals recovered from a trash dumpster. "They are little outcasts in our wasteful culture," she said.

Atkins said the animals of her dreams have been "standing in for the human spiritual qualities that I haven't seen in humans lately." However, her inner journey seems to be changing course. Her most recent work in the show, "White Stag-Man," brings human and animal together. "It just appeared as quickly as I could paint," she said. "I let images from the unconscious guide my work."

WHERE AND WHEN

What: "Tina Atkins, Teri Yarbrow: Animal Icons-Earthly Shrines" at Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: Reception for the artists 8 to 10 tonight. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through June 26.

Call: (818) 789-6012.

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