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Fantasy and Reality Mix in Welcome Center Show PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 30 April 2002 18:00
Fantastic reality meets realistic fantasy in the two-woman show of Catherine Jones Davies and Dorothy Beach running through May at the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire. While Davies’ paintings tackle reality with the style of Expressionism, Beach takes a realistic approach to whimsical subject matter. The artists have affordably priced their works in this show, so there are some good buys to be had.

Catherine Jones Davies’ work reminds me of the Expressionist style of Edward Munch or Max Beckman, sometimes called the German Expressionists. This is interesting because Davies lived in Germany for 15 years before making her home in Anamosa, Iowa. While in Germany, Davies won several awards, including being the only American chosen as a finalist in the Sickingen Kunstpreis competition and inclusion in the 100th anniversary exhibition of the Salon des Independants in Paris. Her artist statement is direct and bold, just like her painting: “The starting point: no angst, exotic fantasy, or self-indulgent statements – just the everyday people, places, shapes, and colors I encounter. The process: linen, gesso, and thin washes of undercolor. Oil paint. Flat brushes. No palette knives, fan brushes, tricky tools, or trendy materials. Just me, the paint, and how it feels.”

Davies’ painting uses bold strokes of color to depict landscapes and scenes that are realistic without the realism. For example, Heading Home is the view from a combine or tractor window as a farmer crosses his fields. Of course, the field is portrayed in jagged lightning bolts of primary and secondary colors: reds, yellows, blues, greens, and oranges. It is easy to identify what the objects are, because they are painted in an abstract style that captures the scene.

Dorothy Beach’s works, on the other hand, are flights of fantasy, as her menagerie seems to be obsessed with tea and tea parties for this show. I first met Beach when she ran the pot shop at the Davenport Museum of Art’s Beaux Arts building for the now defunct DMA Potters’ Guild. I liked her work then, and I like it now. Dorothy’s artist statement also accurately sums up her style: “I enjoy working with clay. The feel of it and how it can be easily manipulated lends itself to the way I create. It allows me to be spontaneous. Working on a series seems the most rewarding. One thought leads to the next. This allows me to stay focused and creative. Although I make my living as a clay artist, it is not just a job – it is my passion.”

We can get an idea of the series incorporated in this show by listing some of the titles of her clay sculptures: Tea Set, Mini Tea Set, Two Boxes, Underwater Party, Two Old Tea Bags, Frog Sipping Tea, and Tea Party. Beach uses a whimsical, realistic caricature style in rendering her sculptures of the animals enjoying their tea. There is a Lewis Carroll/Alice in Wonderland quality (without Carroll’s obsession with pre-pubescent young girls and cocaine) to the way Dorothy depicts her animals.

Beach’s sculptures are typically about one cubic foot in size. Her material is stoneware clay with high-fire glazes, and as a result her works gravitate toward earth tones. Beach also maintains a studio and retail showroom called Dot’s Pots in Moline.

This is a very good show with some very affordable art. Most of Davies’ work falls in the $300 to $500 range, while Beach’s clay ranges in price from $8 to $235, with most works around $100.
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