by Jane Durrell

The Medium is the Message is a fitting title for the new show at downtown’s YWCA. In it four artists, each besotted by color, express themselves in individual mediums.  Even the two painters use markedly different methods, contrasting with each other as well as with the fabric artist and the glass artist.

Mary Barr Rhodes – Waterfront

“Painters” is perhaps a term the artists in question, Jeannine Dostal and Mary Barr Rhodes, find too confining. Each calls herself a “mixed media artist” and turns to whatever works in the course of creating. The results give the viewer much to enjoy as well as something to think about. Rhodes works on canvas, its texture sometimes part of the final effect, uses blues and greens as extravagantly as nature itself does, and seldom employs a straight line. Nor does she frame her work.

“Alligator Tears and Opal Essence” is a good example of her careless elegance, with its translucent, bulbous protrusions signifying, apparently, the alligator tears.

Karla Shepard

Most of Rhodes’ works are generously sized, running two to three feet on a side, but “The Red Line I” and “The Red Line II” are each only twelve inches by ten inches. Both present, as titled, a thin red line, horizontal, against a metallic background. (Metallic bronzing powers and mylar are among the substances Rhodes employes.) These two works are paired with what Karla Sheppard calls a fiber mosaic, her own homage to color. This particular one,  twenty inches by ten inches so almost the same proportions as if Rhodes’ two works were fit together instead of hung one above the other, is a melee of fabric pieces and fibers stitched down but full of life, reading left to right as orange moving to yellow and then to red. The show is thoughtfully laid out; this group of three a good example of the thinking behind the arrangements. Another Sheppard work, nearby, is called “Let It Be;” the letters of these words appear, sometimes reversed, in the stitched-down compendium of fabric odds and ends.

Sandra Gross

Color again is picked up from one work to another with glass artist Sandra Gross’s lavender “Flower Plate” shown below a large (forty-two inches by forty-two inches) hanging by Sheppard with slender stripes of purple, lavender and multiple shades of white. The various whites are particularly acute; it’s so easy to think of white as a very narrow range.

Gross’s work includes several of these round plates, dinner plate size but supremely impractical for such use, each in a different and interesting color and decorated in raised design. My favorites of her contributions, however, are the pale white sculptural pieces incorporating wire in one way or another emerging from improbable bases, and I frankly loved “Toast,” her amusing collaboration with artist Leah Butsch. In this assemblage an actual toaster has just popped up two handsome pieces of “toast” made of multi-colored glass and a simple toast rack that might appear on your own breakfast table holds more of these no doubt one-of-a-kind toast pretenders. There’s one, lying flat, that appears to hold a poached egg; all the others are splendid flights of fancy that don’t presume to hold poached eggs or indeed anything else.

Jeannine Dostal

The YWCA’s gallery is a practical use of open space and adjoining hallways, reached by an attractive stair from the the first floor.  Because the stair makes a turn it provides a nice stretch of wall for showing art, currently occupied by a trio of Dostal’s works.  These are tall (sixty-two inches), narrow (twelve inches) paintings applied to the rear surface of a thick glass plate. The front side is lightly picked out by bright bits of substance unidentified by me. This is Dostal’s general mode of operation. Much of her work is abstract, but the stairwell trio shows us graceful birch trees. Another related trio by Dostal hangs near the glass toast and is equally cheerful in mood.  These three, pleasantly sized at twenty-four inches by thirty inches, are jointly titled  “Field of Dreams Come True” and present wild flowers in profusion against a sky-blue sky.

Dostal’s birch trees and wild flowers are engaging, but I think I prefer her abstractions as they encourage detailed examination. The other thing about Dostal’s work is that she’s interested in frames, when not disregarding them completely. Each is individual to the work it surrounds and usually enhances it.  The least successful seemed to me a complicated arrangement of a simple standard frame set within a larger, conventionally decorated frame, both painted a strong blue that is picked up by the abstract work enclosed.  Or rather, not enclosed: the work itself juts out from the double frame. Something didn’t jell here.

Overall, however, this is an inviting show and the artists involved are not afraid to try a new twist, another angle. The YWCA, southeast corner of Walnut and 9th Streets, says of its shows that it provides a space “for art exhibitions by and about women.” The women in this show are concerned with womanly things – Sheppard’s fabrics, Gross’s dinner plates, Dostal’s flowers, Rhodes’ jewel-like protrusions – but more importantly they are interested in pushing their materials in new directions and in casting new light on old ideas. The Medium is the Message is a pleasure to see. It runs through March 27; gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by special arrangement (call 241-7090).

One Response

  1. Hi Jane!! This is Jeannine from the show at the YWCA. Thank You for the review! This show is such an amazing and exciting opportunity for myself and the brilliant artists I am so honored to share this adventure with. I wish I could have met you…I would have shared with you my creative process and what the “substance” was that you couldn’t identify:)
    As for the painting with the blue frame…funny that you said it didn’t quite “Gell” for you…interesting that you picked up on that…there is a super sweet story behind the blue frame that is too long tto type but If we ever sit down for coffe I would love to share the story with you!!
    Kindest Regards
    Jeannine Dostal

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