Black-and-White Reality Meets Full-Color Fantasy Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 20 January 2004 18:00
In their current exhibit at Quad City Arts, Sandra Dyas re-creates the realism of photojournalism with the sensitivity of individual subjects, while Todd Snyder gives us a glimpse into his vision of actual places painted through the lens of unreality. Dyas’ 23 black-and-white photographs and Snyder’s 12 paintings are on display through February 6.

Both artists use a realistic style when composing their works. But although Snyder paints realistic settings, his choices of color, his expression of lighting, and his use of incongruity create a fantasy world within his paintings. For example, in Manikins, he paints a realistic loading area that one would normally find behind a retail or commercial enterprise. Then he adds female figures who are painted as if they are real as opposed to manikins, and who, in our society, would not be wandering around nude in a back-alley loading zone.

Furthermore, the landscape at the end of the tunnel created by the building overhang suggests a rural setting as opposed to an urban one, whereas the back end of a commercial building suggests a city. It is the incongruity and juxtaposition of these images that create a fantasy world out of realistic elements.

Snyder expresses this in his artist’s statement: “My work is predominately oil on canvas, evolving from a synthesis of imagination and reality, sometimes directly drawn on location, derived from slides and prints, or a combination thereof. Preferred images are anonymous urban landscapes, either separate or combined with figures having undertones of surrealism.”

In a few of his compositions, Snyder uses the device of a long tunnel with a lighted landscape at the far end. It creates viewer interest by pulling your eye back behind the main subject. Once you are in the composition, you pull forward to the main subjects and linger on the painting longer than you might otherwise.

Snyder does offer an exception to this “fantasy” rule in Conversation. This is a pretty normal setting, with two men in what looks to be a metal lean-to shed with a dirt floor. It is a pleasant composition with nothing in it to visually arrest the viewer. You are allowed to speculate on what they are discussing.

Sandra Dyas photographs people. She does it in such a way to highlight each one’s individuality, or a particular aspect of that person. Blue Birds caught my eye as a young woman leans forward for us to get a better look at her tattoo. There is nothing erotic about the photo, but it is extremely sensual – as are all of Dyas’ photographs.

I think the sensuality of the photographs is enhanced because Dyas does not use the sharp black, razor-edged focus of an Alfred Stieglitz composition.

Two photos appear to be taken on the same day: Maya and Michelle. It appears to be some public gathering at a lake, outdoor pool, or other venue that would allow a congregation of people in bathing suits, around picnic tables, with trees in the background.

In Maya, Dyas captures the innocent pose of a young child. She leans against the bench seat of the picnic table and looks directly at the camera without curiosity, amusement, or much interest in the photographer at all. It is this ability to capture subjects without the photographer becoming part of the interaction that I most enjoy in her work.

Dyas writes: “My work, as a visual artist, reflects my life. I have been photographing a body of work entitled Lost Nation for over 10 years. Quite a number of my images are ‘portraits’ of people I meet, and some are friends that I have known for years. Lost Nation embodies the crumbling ‘landscapes’ of America, the swimming holes, auctions, country fairs … . My pictures are the antithesis of the shiny new America we see on TV. It is a side of life that not everyone knows about, or cares to.”

Based on her artist’s statement, Dyas might take issue with characterizing her work as black-and-white reality. She might prefer to think of it as a black-and-white documentation of a fading past.

This is a strong show with two artists who have mastered their crafts and illustrate their visions and emotional views of the world around us. One way to look at this exhibit is that both Snyder and Dyas communicate a lack of enamoration with the progress of the new commercial/industrial America.
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