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Scattered Themes

March 31, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What we find at the diverse watercolor show at the Brand Library, in an annual juried exhibition from the National Watercolor Society, is a kindly sprawl in which certain themes emerge but only in a scattershot way.

If there is a message to impart, it is that the medium is alive and well, often forced to live just outside the parameters of the fine art world.

All things created equal, some works are more equal than others, and several of the paintings stand apart from the cornucopia of works here.

Simple things, such as compositional savvy or clever manipulations of color and light, can seize the visitor's eye.

Carol Simson's "Patio Series I," for instance, is a simple study of shadows creating visual allure in the proverbial and literal backyard. The subjects here are light and color, not a standard point-of-focus.

Visual details go fuzzy in a provocative way in Nora Blackham Bigelow's "The Crossword Puzzle," a loose, impressionistic portrait of a bookish sort in the mind-altering throes of crossword puzzling. Anyone who knows a crossword fanatic can find here a twinge of recognition.

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There are always clever, meaningful ways to invest even simple, innocent images with creative energy. Lisa Joraskie's "Matthew + Jacob" depicts young boys in a yard inflected with abstract elements amid croquet accouterments.

An older man and a teenager sit on a bench in Rieneke Leenders' "Not Talking," separated by a chasm of silence and mutual disregard.

Joan McPherson's "Pumpkins" finds its subject sparsely, dramatically lit, a gentle study in light and volume. The challenge of using the watercolor medium to depict layered imagery in a reflective window is at the core of Paulette Beakley's "Voyeur Series II."

John Selleck's "Quiet Room II" is appealing and distinctive from the crowd of more conventional paintings here, by virtue of its folk art-like expressive vocabulary.

A flat sense of space and directness of drawing lend an air of mystique to a picture of a cat in a wood-floored interior.

Conveying personality in subtle ways is enough of a raison d'etre for a painting, as with Jed Smith's "Morris," a nice languid portrait of an elderly man sitting in the afternoon sun, the lived-in planes of his face defined by the light.

As expected in a watercolor show, there are plenty of floral subjects to behold, and some stand out while others recede into the realm of pleasantry.

Elisabeth Ljungkull's "Cosmos Cosmos" accents the sheer, delicate nature of the flowers' petals, presented as something not quite real. Jan Witten Sewall's "Gardening 101" is a stylized, almost Peter Max-ish floral design with an ardent symmetry that puts us in mind of kaleidoscopic psychedelia and Rorschach tests.

All of this from a watercolor. Go figure. Needless to say, it's still an underdog medium, deserving the benefit of the art world's doubt.

BE THERE

National Watercolor Society Juried Exhibition through April 8 at the Brand Library Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale. Gallery hours: 1-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 1-6 p.m. Wednesday, 1-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday. (818) 548-2051.

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