Becoming nature 

Amy Falstrom’s last exhibition at the Harrison Gallery celebrated the fruits of a 2006 Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Fellowship. Incorporating figures into surrealist images, Falstrom seemed to move even further inward, exploring an almost inexplicable place informed by her imagination. Her current body of work, sharing the gallery with the work of Ralph Domanico, returns to familiar territory: variations on a theme exploring nature — as in, Nature.
Falstrom has maintained continuity as a painter: Her images remain misty and remote, suggesting the underside of nature either coming in its glory or moving into an infertile, dormant state. And yet, with all the distance Falstrom suggests, her presence is immediate. The artist’s eye is alive and distinct in its playful dance with what she sees, what is seen.
In “Sunwash,” a wall-spanning, horizontal landscape done in oil on panel, a tree is the centerpiece at left, pulling in the viewer with its tangled branches, alive with the dance of wind. Are we moving into fall or away from winter? The lushness of midsummer is absent, and yet Falstrom’s depiction of nature’s complex layers is rich and forms a sort of embrace. Still, Falstrom’s view is decidedly muted. Her palette emerges from the colors most often found in nature, untouched and uncultivated — browns and greens and their arms’ reach into yellows, ochres and a slight touch of red. The occasional drip of paint suggests forgotten moments behind the brush, and yet even these feel intentional.
Ralph Domanico’s palette is uncannily similar, and yet his compositions move into starker contrast. Employing the same aesthetic as past work, Domanico’s oils are at once enigmatic and playful, forming loose grids of symbolic imagery and linear structures. Chalices, helixes, the veins of a leaf ... these and other images are suggested as if Domanico wishes to communicate in an eternal language.
Domanico’s “Flotsam” is hung next to Falstrom’s “Sunwash,” creating an electric effect as the first images one alights upon when entering the gallery. As is usually the case, the gallery floor is painted with a complementary color (mustard yellow) to play up the art — and while this isn’t necessary, it creates a chamber-like atmosphere.
Falstrom’s “Floating Lake,” on the left wall, a diptych with one section larger than the other, brings us closer to the source. Falstrom’s fascination with nature is brought to bear through a brilliant reflection on water, a sunburst in the lower left corner of the painting is like a beacon of hope. An airborne blossom, or its shell, is once again in the state of becoming or unbecoming — and therein lies the truth of all things.
Innerscapes, new work by Indianapolis artists Amy Falstrom and Ralph Domanico, is on view at Harrison Center for the Arts, 1505 N. Delaware St., through April 26. Call 317-396-3886 or visit for hours and information.
—Julianna Thibodeaux

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