To say that Timberly Dunn's show of watercolors is, by and large, flowery isn't necessarily a value judgment but a statement of truth. The back room of the Buenaventura Gallery is richly pollinated with her unpretentious and deftly executed floral "portraits."
Dunn is a skilled watercolorist with an unabashed appreciation for subjects found in nature, and her work is replete with horticultural specifics. But her art is also about art. Whatever the subject, Dunn is dealing with--to quote her show's title--"Releasing the Color Within."
She gives flowers their due attention, as in "Hollyhocks" and "Delphiniums," placing the exactingly rendered blooms against backdrops of fuzzier, seeping colors. "Two Trees" is a landscape painting, its title referring to the tiny trees atop a distant hill, looking like lovers admiring the agrarian view below.
Dunn also shows pieces revealing the instincts of a scientific illustrator. The composite work called "Cozumel, Mexico" shows an inset map of the area's geography, flanked by images of the exotic, resident sea life. Faithful depictions of such creatures as a green moray eel and a yellowtail damselfish become colorful drawing exercises, lovingly detailed. "Time Out of Mind" takes an unexpectedly surreal, whimsical turn, with its paintings of fish and insects in front of a painting of sunflowers. It's as if the fish are swimming in an aquarium with sunflowers as a background, a charming trompe l'oeil trick.
Group Showing: In the outer room of the Buenaventura Gallery, devoted to a variety of artists in the Buenaventura Art Assn., several pieces vie for attention.
Carole Milton's "Sister Sister" is a warm yet slightly bizarre painting, imbued with a sense of antique, turn-of-the-century domesticity. A pair of young girls are portrayed with a Fauvist-like distorted palette, green of skin and generally adrift in a mysterious space. The painting seems to speak of the filtering process our minds go through in the clutches of distant, borrowed memory.
In the painting "Light Fantasies," Nicole Erd distorts her seascape with a neo-Impressionist flair, accenting light and texture. And E. Leighman Gifford's "Orange and Green," a curious photo-on-canvas piece, conveys an unusual, hybrid visual effect, seemingly in a nether world between painting and photography.
In another hybrid zone, Helle Scharling-Todd's "The Ladder" is an impressive glass sculpture etched with faint impressions that cast subtle shadows of human figures. The word palimpsest comes to mind--a faint trace of a presence, not quite real, but not easily dismissed, either.
Timberly Dunn, "Releasing the Color Within," on display through Feb. 5 at the Buenaventura Gallery, 700 E. Santa Clara St. in Ventura. Hours: Tues-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; 648-1235.
Josef Woodard, who writes about art and music, can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.