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Dancing Lips and Computer Blips PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 26 June 2001 18:00
Although Colleen Curry is working in a more novel medium than Jacki Olson and Dick Oberg, it is Curry whose art makes its impact beyond the materials in the Quad City ArtsCenter’s current show. Curry is a three-dimensional artist working in quilted fabrics with armature frames to provide the structure for her freestanding pieces, while Olson and Oberg are graphic artists working together with photographs and the computer program Photoshop. Curry transcends her medium and gets you to feel her message without being first aware that you are looking at a quilt or fabric sculpture, while Olson and Oberg only have few pieces that don’t first tell you, “I’m a computer-generated graphic!”

My favorite piece in this exhibit is Hubba Hubba, which is a pair of outrageously red lips mounted on Rockettes’ legs. It is a flight of kitschy fantasy to imagine the lips dancing, a visual that might draw its inspiration from the dancing Chesterfield cigarette box, which was a staple on the Milton Berle television show from the 1950s. (When they outlawed broadcast tobacco ads, we sure lost a lot of American pop-culture history.)

One of Curry’s nicest pieces is entitled simply Tree. It is a round wall hanging of a tree that looks to be an oak of ancient vintage. The oranges and browns give the correct balance of earth tones and make the work a pleasing addition to someone’s wall. Priced at $765, it is a good buy, given its size – it must be at least five feet in diameter.

Olson and Oberg are an extraordinarily talented couple apparently still enamored with their medium. As they grow with their art and assert their mastery over the medium, it will be fun to see what they create.

For now, though, the medium is taking center stage in their works instead of the message they want to express. Most of the compositions have far too many images for viewers to get a cohesive message; they look like the artists started with nice-looking pictures, and then had fun with a computer as a way to make them something more. To me, this is backwards: Artists should start with the concept and then move to expression. In this way, the tools used to create the image become secondary.

There are three notable exceptions: Arched Bridge, Sun thru the Palm Leaf, and my favorite, Underwater Bed. In these works, viewers can see how strong elements dominate to the point that they’re not even aware that computers and photographs are involved. Underwater Bed looks like a completely abstract work; I’m not at all sure how Olson and Oberg did it and don’t care, because the composition draws me in. I love the swirling colors, suggestive butterflies, and the freedom of motion within a fluid environment. This work is successful at giving a feeling and showing the skill these artists have. And the serenity and simplicity of the images in Arched Bridge and Sun thru the Palm Leaf show that bit by bit, the vision of these artists will dominate, and they will create some wonderful works.

One suggestion to Quad City Arts would be to include a catalog or even a simple list of the artists’ works included in the show along with their prices. Augustana’s Centennial Art Gallery and the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery always provide price lists, and the Davenport Museum of Art not only provides a list, but the catalog is often bound in a book with reproductions of the art works. These catalogues are sold for $35 or so – which is very reasonable for a full-sized four-color art book.
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