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Flower Power

Nature photography packs a punch.

May 15, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Don't be misled by the exhibition title of Michael Appuliese's enticing photography show at the Carnegie Art Museum.

These images may be "In Your Face," in the sense of being macro-close-up views of flowers and extroverted colors, but the real beauty lies beneath the flamboyant surface. There's an introspective wonder abuzz here.

A Thousand Oaks-based photographer, Appuliese has regularly shown his work in local galleries over the past few years, and he was among those chosen for the "Eight Ventura County Photographers" show at Ventura County Museum of History and Art last year. He often explores the subject of landscapes and nature-oriented imagery from varying perspectives.

In the Oxnard show, continuity and focus give the work concentrated power. One complaint, though: Words get in the way, with titles such as "True Love" and "Lasting Impression" adding a layer of greeting-card-quality narrative that distracts from subjects that inherently transcend language. Sometimes "Untitled" is the best title of all.

These are lush and lucid views of flowers and plants, seen ultra up close and personal. While the images celebrate the plant kingdom and its individual traits, the exaggerated perspective pushes the imagery toward abstraction: The works explode with bursts of color and form.

Appuliese burrows in close enough that the depth of field is minuscule. One tiny detail--a pistil, a petal or a bit of flower stalk--might be in sharp focus, with the rest of the image dissolving into pleasant fuzziness. Each image within the series seems to address a different visual issue, such as the minute textural contrasts in "True Love."

In "ZNA," a flower is shot from below, and the bristling clarity on the flower stalk yields to a soft, out-of-focus blur. "Hot Spot" (block that title) gives a fresh perspective of a sunflower's vortex, wreathed in hyper-yellow, and with an almost aggressive affability.

With this carefully considered, sensuous approach, Appuliese gives flower photography a good name.

Downstairs at the Carnegie, Thomas Scott Nelson shows a series of his rose paintings, depicted on large, shaped canvases to emphasize the "rose-ness" of his subjects. The end effect lies somewhere between the decorative and the surreal, not a bad place to dwell.

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Artistic Nature, Continued: Meanwhile, over at Buenaventura Gallery, Pat Richards offers a different take on nature. In "Another View," the artist addresses landscapes with fervent brushwork and a general gregariousness.

Sweeping waves of energy seem to alter the face of nature in her paintings. In "Living Oak" and "Waltzing Winds," unnaturally gnarled tree limbs and twisting lines give the pictures a wind-swept intensity. "Springing" depicts flowers with an over-amped intensity, while a profusion of orange drenches "Las Posas Valley--Marigolds."

The mock-natural splendor of a golf course, in "The Home Course," is seen as a lazy, languid expanse of melting lawn. Not one to view things idly, Richards envisions landscapes very much in motion.

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A Different Perspective: This is the final day of a unique exhibition at Gallery 111, in which the artists' subtext is important in understanding the artwork. "Wired Differently" features artists suffering from autism, who have found a valuable mode of creative expression through computer-generated graphics. Two of the artists also work with more traditional media.

Part of the intrigue here lies in considering the relationship of the tool to the product. Whereas many computer-aided artists often use their e-palettes to create elaborate visuals difficult to do by hand, the work here veers in the opposite direction, conveying a naive, funky charm.

Mark Rimland shows a nice, free sense of line and splashes of post-psychedelic color in "Dancers in Front of Castle." From his own hand comes the fetching acrylic painting, "Me and the Pups," expressing his affection for canines and self-portraiture.

Kristina Woodruff combines exuberant colors and complex patterns in computerized works like "Castle," and then shows brute charm in the painting, "African Rhinos." Kenneth Brewer shows moody abstract pieces with luminous energy sources tucked into grids.

BE THERE

"In Your Face: the floral photography of Michael Appuliese," Thur.-Sat. noon-5 p.m., Sun. 1-5, ends Sun.at Carnegie Art Museum, 424 South C St., Oxnard. (805) 385-8157.

"Another View," paintings by Pat Richards, Tue.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m., through May 30 at Buenaventura Gallery, 700 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. (805) 648-1235.

"Wired Differently," noon-5:30 p.m. through today at Gallery 111, 111 Dos Caminos, Ventura. (805) 641-0111.

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