Review: Disaster and renewal 'Flow' for artist
December 4, 2008
by Andria Lisle
With "Flow," her current exhibition at Perry Nicole Fine Art, New Orleans-based artist Allison Stewart has created a moody, metaphysical world out of simple doodles, splatters, and splashes of paint.
"Flow," which opens today and will be on display through Dec. 31, invokes fantastic, fanciful botanic ecosystems in reveries of green, gold and white acrylic and oil paint. As pure artistic expression, these paintings serve as devastatingly original work; as portraits of social consciousness, they stand as a jolting reminder of the damage done to the vanishing Gulf Coast.
Paintings by New Orleans artist Allison Stewart at Perry Nicole Fine Art display her background in botany and reflect the weathered Gulf Coast habitat.
With its dripping green and gray backdrop, "Water Borne #7" might be a study of post-Hurricane Katrina flora: The painting, which includes graffitied layers of sketches and shapes, glows with a toxic fecundity intrinsic to the lower Mississippi River Delta.
Though similar in subject matter, the diptych "Water Borne #8," which features a magnificent array of eroded greens and golds, is decidedly more palliative. So is "Over the River #10," an abstraction reminiscent of an Asian landscape. The red smudges that drip down the right side of the canvas might be Japanese maple leaves; blue-gray and brown curves, formed by lazy gestures, could be a mountain range in the background.
Another diptych, titled "Lost Bayou," depicts loose renderings of flowers, which, in Stewart's hand, are interpreted as flimsy parasols inverted in the wind. It's as if she's captured the ruins of a garden party, plucked the waterlogged posies from Lake Ponchartrain, and pressed them between the pages of her sketchbook to dry. Leaves are bedraggled, petals are missing, decay is in the air, but beauty remains steadfast.
"Passing Through" continues the ruined effect: Fern fronds, rendered with furious blots of blue-green ink, float in and out of focus atop yet another cracked pigment and thin wash backdrop. As in Stewart's series of "River Run" paintings, plant life somehow endures whatever man -- and Mother Nature -- can dish out.
Stewart comes by the botanical imagery honestly -- trained as a biologist, she's devoted years of her work to studying the lifecycles of Louisiana's vanishing wetlands. "Flow" marks her first Memphis show in five years.
"Flow," paintings by Allison Stewart
Through Dec. 31 at Perry Nicole Fine Art, 3086 Poplar Ave. An opening reception is 6-8 tonight. Call 405-6000 or go to www.perrynicole.com
Image caption: Paintings by New Orleans artist Allison Stewart at Perry Nicole Fine Art display her background in botany and reflect the weathered Gulf Coast habitat.
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