It’s called A Loss for Words, and this two-person exhibition of recent work by Jacqueline Bishop and Douglas Bourgeois is startling in any number of ways. Both bring a mind-boggling deftness to the act of painting, with imagery that you might need a magnifying glass to fully appreciate. Beyond fanatical technique, both display qualities of imagination that take us on a journey, not only to fantastically beautiful other worlds, but also to the realization that these otherworldly places are really, in one way or another, situated in our own backyards.
Bourgeois, who still lives in his Assumption Parish hometown of St. Amant, inhabits that lush frontier where American pop culture bumps up against, not only bayou country, but also ancient mythology.
In Skeletor and Venus, a nude Creole Venus appears in a colorfully shabby kitchen where a Skeletor-like robot is about to raid her refrigerator. Both seem oblivious to ankle-deep flooding and a Leda-like swan paddling beneath the depression-era kitchen table in a scene that is provincial yet sweeping in its psychic and mythic overtones.
His painted collages and woodcuts extend those themes more abstractly, yet it is his lovingly painted school yearbook portraits that somehow meld the parochial and the universal in Bourgeois’ unique blend of down-home alchemy.
For years Jacqueline Bishop’s surreal landscapes have explored that strange zone where creation and destruction, beauty and danger, seem to coexist. Inspired by Brazil’s Amazon rain forests and Louisiana’s coastal ecology, her elaborately rendered paintings reveal the hidden places of the swamp, the rainforest and the mind, probing their inner secrets.
Here all things are connected through sinewy creepers and invisible ecology, birds are both spirits and messengers, and nests are ecological reliquaries adrift in an increasingly alien universe, as we see in World Presence, pictured. Bishop’s notions of cosmic connectedness find further expression in a series of collage paintings featuring ink portraits of birds superimposed on newsprint from around the world, as well as in a series of delicate landscapes painted on baby shoes scavenged from the streets of New Orleans, Brazil and Peru. A Loss for Words brings together the work of two artists whose unique yet related visions articulate the global nature of the local, and vice versa.
The Story of Bruce: An Exhibition of Recent Work by Blake Boyd
"The Story of Bruce, Boyd’s third opera and newest addition to his twenty-year conceptual artwork, is based upon his book The Space Bunny which he wrote in 1978 while in the second grade. Boyd rewrote the book in 1988 when he was in high school, at which time he had dreams of being an animator. It is intended to represent the third piece of 'chamber music' and consists of a wall of water-colors, a wall of photographs, a free standing sculpture and a timeline documenting the artist’s history of incorporating a rabbit throughout his work." Cartoon content by Bunny Matthews was featured in the original version of the installation.
Dots, Loops, Stripes and Finches: Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet
Nicole Charbonnet's paintings don't always look like paintings as we know them. Densely textured and layered with chalky washes and translucent paper, her deceptively simple images evoke faded wallpaper or painted, sun-bleached signs on the sides of old buildings. Iconic renderings of zebras, wolves, flowers, dots, stripes or even Wonder Woman come across as ghostly afterimages that suggest partial recollections from the dim recesses of memory. Details are lost in much the way memories fade over time. Alternating between clearly rendered lines and partial obscurity allows the images to breathe and creates spaces that invite the viewer into the work in an exploration of subconscious, often poetic, associations. Charbonnet says: "Remembering furnishes a vantage point. ... Scavenging and interpreting the past opens a gateway into the future." — D. Eric BookhardtThrough February
Arthur Roger @434, 434 Julia St.522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com