Emma Overman, who is well-known for her work on multiple IndyFringe program guides, is currently exhibiting her extraordinary new paintings at the Harrison Center, in a show that lives up to its title: Symphonies and Dirges
Elongated oval faces with large expressive eyes are what you first notice in her humanoid subjects. Noses are represented by a mere curved line (if at all) and mouths are nowhere to be seen. "I feel like they have one but when they're not using it, it just goes away," Overman says.
Her animal subjects are unique as well. In "Smooth Maneuver," you see a monkey on a Segway scooter, speeding down a hallway. Overman sees monkeys as flawed and awkward in a way to which she can relate personally. The Segway helps this particular awkward monkey make "a smooth transition from here to there," she says.
But this monkey doesn't look like any monkey that you might see in the zoo. It's a creature of Overman's imagination, in other words, rather than a product of literal representation. At the same time, she paints her imaginary characters with such skill and precision that her paintings never seem cartoonish.
Overman paints with acrylics on both canvas and wooden boards. A particular frame that she finds on eBay might inspire her to paint to fit. But she'll sometimes dispense with a frame altogether as she does in the four-board panel "Lost."
In "Lost," the subject is a girl in a blue dress, lost in a forest. But you don't just see one portrait of this girl; you see many different images of her at different depths within the world of the painting - as if her image had been repeatedly captured by using time-lapse photography. The forest seems so vast that you wonder if she'll ever find her way back home.
Uncertainty also rears its head in the 40-by-30-inch acrylic on canvas "Rise or Set?" Here, bunnies are gathered in the forest watching the sun that hovers just above the horizon and takes up almost the entire canvas. Even though the sun is the subject of the painting, the tone is nevertheless twilit and the colors are subdued.
Overman paints using an abundance of greens and sepia tones, as if her intent is to balance the humor and warmth of her current work with a sense of nostalgia and/or impending darkness. No surprise, then, that the show lives up to its title.
Her artwork hangs through Jan. 31 at the Harrison Center for the Arts, 1505 N. Delaware St. Call 317-396-3886 or go to www.harrisoncenter.org for more information.