Written by Marlene Steele

Rabbits, roosters, turtles and dogs. Leslie Shiels’ familiar animals dwell in large confrontational canvases and are exhibited opposite their painted twins, who somehow have popped into completely different bubble worlds.

Twins can be monozygotic or “identical” meaning that they develop from one zygote. Dizygotic or ‘fraternal” twins launch from two different eggs or in this case, visual formats that develop in near parallel worlds. In this show, the animals are exhibited in reversely painted pairs or twins as the title suggests, in a completely different circumstance or visual pattern.

Of the several animals portrayed, the ubiquitous dog invites interaction from this viewer. Rambunctious riotous rollicking dogs, charging forward fearlessly with their noses pointed backward. Dogs, bounding upon an invisible glass barrier in anticipation of the viewer’s rewarding gesture. I imagine many human viewers at this exhibition repressing the instinct to reciprocate the canine’s gregarious enthusiasm with the pat on the head, however brief. Charging about in a bubble world of painted pattern, they are accompanied only by their shadow, oblivious to their illogical predicament. Lively painted gestural color reveals the perpetual exuberance of this common pet that owners adore or tolerate.

Comforters of our existence more commonly than any other species, Shiels’ canines vibrate in gesturally applied paint and pattern while expressively utilizing all the familiar appearances of dog life: bounding, plodding, waiting faithfully, following their nose or master unseen with pragmatic resignation. In “Cryptic Leaper”–the shadow of the central figure is the only occasional, odd, space-defining element serving as the plane or space definition in the somewhat cryptic pattern-filled space. Several figures seem to float in a vegetable soup of cryptic characters or martian letters. what do the patterns mean? Abbreviated hieroglyphical forms could be surmised as the written thought bubbles of dog mind communications. A fanciful interpretation if one must lend portent to an otherwise inaccessible mechanism.

Left looking right, right looking left; a dog walks over a carpet forested with cookie cutter shapes of morphing rabbits and fish whose migration pattern heads in a determinedly opposite direction. Her paintings contrast the singular heroic sized animal with the multiple symbolic patterns and can be seen as opposing or flowing with the patterned field. there could to be an intent to discuss the ‘left’ and ‘right’ in terms of societal or political polemics. A resolution of this line of thought may be entirely speculative on the part of the viewer.

The paintings are seductive in that the risks they first pose can be easily taken for granted; the iconic format of commonplace comforting animals seemingly simple and nonthreatening.

Leslie Shiels lives and paints in Cincinnati, Ohio
“Dizygotic” is at Cincinnati Art Galleries: November 2-23, 2012

Marlene Steele paints and teaches in Cincinnati, Ohio

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