Contrasting Styles, but Artists Share Sensuality Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 23 December 2003 18:00
Although Elaine Ball and Brent Langley have two very different artistic styles, both express a great deal of sensuality in their work in a joint exhibit on display through January at the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery at the Iowa Welcome Center in LeClaire.

Langley realistically paints nature scenes, and his work has received awards for its illustrative realism. Ball uses natural materials to create abstract shapes in wood alabaster and limestone, and they have a real emotional impact. Both artists’ works communicate to the viewer on a nonverbal level by creating images that are pleasing to experience.

Although not realistic, Ball’s sculptures in this show have unmistakable imagery. For example, Rocket Boy with Space Junk was the first work in this exhibit to grab my attention. If the phallic imagery doesn’t catch your eye, it’ll poke it out. The sculpture uses a wishbone-shaped piece of driftwood with an extended torso protruding up from the loin-clothed junction. The combination of high finish, rough cuts, and limestone base with professional fit and finish results in an exuberant emotional work.

I’m sure that Ball believes in equal opportunity, because this show also includes a work titled Crotch Box with Bones. What Rocket Boy is to men, Crotch Box is to women. Again there is a mix between a highly finished box and the crotch from an old tree mounted, appropriately, as the door to the box.

In her artist statement, Ball states her objectives: “Many artists choose to work with a particular form and material, such as painting, collage, or stone-carving. I see materials and methods as the means to an end: the creation of an artifact signifying a message. Finding the most appropriate method for expressing any given idea is crucial to the communication of this idea/experience to the viewer.”

Without using realism, through appropriate choice of materials and abstract forms, Ball communicates extremely well with her viewers. Most of the sculptures in this show have a 180-degree point of view. But Rocket Boy works well when viewed from every side, and that elevates it above the other sculptures in this show.

Langley’s paintings, in contrast to Bell’s sculptures, are realistic to a fault. Langley was listed in the national Arts for the Parks “Top 200” for the year 2002, and he was among the top 40 entries for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department’s Conservation Stamp entries for the year 2002. His artwork is also on exhibit at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas, and is displayed as wall murals for animal exhibits at the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Illinois. Langley’s works are also reasonably priced.

Among the compositions that I liked included Evening on the Hennepin and High Plains Pronghorns.

Langley’s artist’s statement explains his works well: “Art had always been a part of my life. From earliest memories, I have been intrigued with the idea of taking what my eyes see, melding that sensory input with what my mind imagines, and translating the resulting images through my hands to paper, board, and canvass for others to experience. My objective is to create works of art that are harmonious in all aspects, from both a compositional and a scientific viewpoint. While the primary goal is to bring pleasure, a secondary objective is to educate, to prompt in the viewer the desire to preserve the wonderful, extravagant, beautiful diversity of life that surrounds us.”

I don’t know enough about wildlife to determine the true accuracy of the renderings, but the craftsmanship with which the animals are drafted is topnotch. The compositions are good, and choice of colors is excellent.

This show brings together two artists, two very different styles, and contrasts abstract versus realistic artworks. Both are very accomplished artists who have mastered their craft.