Visual Art

Mary Lou Dooley Waller: Marks & Strokes

Ruschman Art Gallery

Through Nov. 30 Mary Lou Dooley Waller's 'Nucleus,' part of 'Marks & Strokes' at Ruschman Art Gallery.

It's common wisdom one shouldn't go grocery shopping when hungry. Perhaps the same holds true for viewing art, especially abstract art - all you're likely to see is food.

With all due respect to the prodigious talents of painter Mary Lou Dooley Waller, whose lovely (and long-awaited) canvases are on view at Ruschman Art Gallery, I was keenly aware of both my stomach pangs and the presence of a wide variety of standard as well as exotic groceries while peering into the expansive confines of her nine canvases.

I spied a banana in "Botanica" (alongside floral flourishes, of course), cucumbers (pickles?) in "Friar's Lantern," a bloom of broccoli in "Outgrowth," toast smeared with avocado in "Primavera," floating french fries and a fried egg in "Nucleus" and a deliciously ripe peach in "Marks and Strokes." This is, of course, just another way of saying Dooley Waller's current crop of paintings on the whole is just as visually lyrical - and delicious - as I remember her last collection at Ruschman, and it's been an unbelievable six years since then.

Time flies when you're hungry ... or does it stand still? In any event, Dooley Waller still makes the most of what classical abstraction has to offer, and continues to make it a brilliant vehicle for her own unique and careful expression.

If abstract art is more than an exercise in aesthetics, if it indeed speaks to the untold reaches of the unconscious, then it makes perfect sense that what one sees is truly unique, extending far beyond the intentions of the artist. Beyond the edible delights, other delicious universes exist here: a deep blue sea in "Bluesynapse," complete with school of fish and an explosion of squid ink.

Throughout the room, generous curves of brilliant color are balanced by more rational squares of color, suggesting interplay between masculine and feminine. And an abundance of what could be construed as seedpods is also suggestive of the fertile ground of abstraction.

Dooley Waller's paintings also hold the presence of more ephemeral ghosts: a hint of Cezanne in "Nucleus," Picasso in "Rouge," for instance; but Dooley Waller's abstractions are decidedly less figurative - or rather, figurative only by suggestion, and the suggestion is likely unintentional. Such is the beauty of abstraction, its joyous if hard-won fecundity. Dooley Waller is a master at balancing intention and spontaneity; for these are deeply layered spaces and yet they are also light on their surfaces.

To return to the allusion to food, often the most sophisticated meals are composed of simple ingredients. Soufflé comes to mind: Just a few well-chosen ingredients with which magic is made.

Marks & Strokes, new paintings by Mary Lou Dooley Waller, is on view through Nov. 30 at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., phone 634-3114, Web www.ruschmangallery.com. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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