by Marlene Steele

Life is a box of chocolates— You never know what you are going to get. Love letters, love birds, bottled passion and romance — this lighthearted look at the thread of romance in all phases of life and experience is as varied in message and medium as the artists selected to exhibit.

John Michael Carter presents a posie’d viewpoint in his impressionistic composition of a cuddling couple in his poetic “Couple in a Roman Garden”.

Daniel Greene further celebrates the couple concept with his painting of hand-held glasses of wine entitled “Toast”–one can almost hear the clink.

Several potent infusions of Desire, Passion and Romance can be had as marketable seduction in a bottle in Jeff Crandall’s Poet’s Bottle Series. Each bottle bears a listing of ingredients guaranteed to achieve the desired results.

The churning crush of a salty sea breaches a beautifully painted but impregnable craggy promontory as it thrusts toward billowing clouds. The fragile message preserved in glass amid such tumultuous chaos and natural wonder may be a visually appropriate parable of love lost in the maelstrom of modern life. Small wonder that the viewer overlooks the message in the sea-borne bottle in “The Love Letter” by David Michael Beck.

Several works pay homage to the kiss. Dale Lamson portrays an extreme tattooed young couple who happen to be kissing in his oil painting “The Kiss”.

In direct contrast, a rosy glow emanates from 2 photographic works by Douglas Kirkland, softening the impression of brittle, bitter reality. In his stolen, sunlit moment from the staging of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, we see a barefoot, barelegged Katherine Ross ridding on the bicycle handlebars of a rakish, bowlered Paul Newman. The picturesque wilderness of life’s adventure is the backdrop of their carefree cycle ride. Next to this hangs Kirkland’s image of “Pauli & Elsie” 1994. The older couple’s deep embracing kiss is witnessed in the vacuum of their love, no costume or accoutrements, for the world has fallen away from their moment.

Douglas Kirland – Paul & Elsie

These works remind us of two facets of love often forgotten in today’s definitions: innocence and the capability of inconceivable depth.

On the lighter side, the cultural ‘kiss’, identified with that ubiquitous Hershey confection, is portrayed by Randy Ford in a series of 6 x 8′ oils on canvas with a variety of flagged messages for the beloved.

A beguiling Betty Boop appears as twin embodiments of sweet dalliance and devilish diversion in Tony Chimento’s oil painting “Angel/Devil Betty”. Though the costuming defines the demonic on one and the gesture of prayerfully folded hands assail heaven on the other, this viewer had some difficulty distinguishing which Boop was which.

Angel/Devil Betty

Jonathan Queen extends his established fascination with vintage toys and figurines and presents a fanciful parody of the winged figures from Botticelli’s Renaisance classic “The Birth of Venus”. A loin clothed Ken doll and his celebrated companion Barbie are airborne over a make-believe sea. They both smile indefatigably while Barbie clutches demurely across his chest with bent wrist and intertwined fingers. Her fluttering neon yellow-orange wings, apparently ineffectual in the effort, are a 21st century update duly noted. An upturned sea shell and strewn fading roses are additional allusions to the Uffizi original. So much colorful fun in this painted parody, one almost forgets to notice the ball-jointed anatomy and the absence of Venus.

Jonathan Queen – Search of Venus

Many additional works are intriguing, amusing, and well painted.

Cuban-born Carlos Gamez de Francisco shows to 2 works portraying the “Faithful Wife of Odysseus” that invite thoughtful consideration. The poses of the elaborately costumed women fleetingly recall the depiction of a queen in any suit of cards, frozen with crossed wrists. Her sidelong expression of pensive alienation rebuffs the viewer.

Wings of Soul

Anthony Ackrill presents a pair of handsomely painted classic nudes in his paintings “Love Lost” and “Dusk at Crying Rock”, exemplifying his classic Academic training.

Rondle West shows two white glazed assemblage sculptures that illustrate the operatic personifications of Tamino the Prince and Pamino the Princess with a collision of contemporary knick-knacks, dolls, gnomes and other forest creatures, nymphs and dwarfs, and several toy Shreks and other cartoon characters. Pamino’s edifice, a classic Greek head, reigns over chattering woodland creatures, magic fairies and one giant crab. Do not overlook two horizontally protruding giant mushrooms that are not so subtle in their prefiguration.

Rondle West – Pamina the Princess

A more diverse diet celebrating expressive romantic love and visual parody would be difficult to find in any venue and only made more enjoyable with a dark chocolate treat.

Marlene Steele, painter, lives and teaches in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Miller Gallery, Hyde Park
February 7 – February 22, 2014

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