Visual art

Imense and Intense

By Sam Sartorius

Domont Studio Gallery

Through Jan. 29

Sam Sartorius is the kind of artist some of us want to emulate. Each painting is a small window into a large universe, one that many artists either don't have access to or can't bridge effectively. 'A Drink with Eyes' by Sam Sartorius

On view through this weekend, Sartorius' take on her trip to the Czech Republic as part of her Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Fellowship, Imense and Intense (sic), explores her visual reactions to encounters there. But there's more to it than this: Sartorius' painted worlds have both an intimate and an expansive nature that speaks more to the depths of the unconscious - an enigmatic place to be sure. Sartorius speaks to us with equal parts expression and artmaking.

Why are these worlds so intoxicating? In "Ruby Rose Wander," an animated bee hovers, both vulnerable and impervious, amid a multilayered pink background. Sartorius achieves a three-dimensional depth with her rich sense of composition. In other instances, a receding fence gives these worlds growing room, as if to suggest the many places she's gone. In "Strike That. Reverse It," a willowy bird walks in two directions at once: two legs walking up a wall and the others grounded, feet clad in high-heeled shoes. Once again, a cartoonlike form suggests innocence rather that superficiality.

Things get a bit more serious in "A Drink with Eyes," its main character a buglike creature glaring from slightly off-center. One gets the feeling here of emerging in and out of conscious space; if this is a caricature of a real person, he or she is perhaps suggestive of more personal projected spaces. Similarly, in "Vulnerable," a blue-green creature with large clawed foot is a self-conscious, melancholy dragon.

These and other spindly-legged creatures, fairylike in their exuberance and yet darker for their vulnerability, are Sartorius' alphabet: each speaking from more than a persona, rather a window to and from the real self. What psychological terrain will she take us to next? No doubt we'll find ourselves there. Sartorius' voice is solid, and if these paintings suggest any departure, it's a casual one. Even from afar, Sartorius has explored similarly deep places, and I, for one, hope she doesn't stop doing so.

Imense and Intense is on view at Domont Studio Gallery, 545 S. East St., through Jan. 29. A closing reception will take place Jan. 29 from noon-5 p.m. with the artist. The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 685-9634 or visit www.domontgallery.com for additional information.

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