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New Views of the Familiar PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 07 August 2001 18:00
Two artists presently showing at Quad City Arts take familiar media and put their distinctive stamps on them. Lisa L. Mahar’s Putting the “Fun” Back into Functional showcases 30 furniture sculptures, while Sara Toton’s Found Objects features 36 photographic collages.

“I draw inspiration from just about anything,” Mahar says in her artist’s statement. “I love to use commonplace things such as shoes, buttons, old fringe, etc. on my works. … Art, as life, is often taken too seriously. If you’re lucky you will find time for yourself, your dreams, and for fun!”

Mahar’s kitschy decorative schemes on the furniture are clearly consistent with this statement. Her furniture is undoubtedly fun, and her use of bright, uncomplicated colors, simple textures, clear images, and paint schemes that accent the existing shapes will evoke a smile.

For most of her work, Mahar starts with an old piece of furniture and waits for it to speak to her. Then she gives form to the message received. For example, a telephone desk receives a decorative painting of maps and is titled You Are Here, which calls to mind the maps we use to locate ourselves in shopping malls. The telephone is a way to travel, and a map helps us find our way. The message comes through loudly when viewing this piece.

Some of the pieces in this show have titles that describe the work; for example, Plastic Jesus is a magazine trestle table with several small plastic statues glued on it. Life Is a Circus is a hinged table with an inner bowl that holds a circus train. Time Box Table has some somber colors – because the time box mounted in the center is finished in natural wood colors. Finally, Tip Top Kitty Cat is an end table with women’s pumps as corner bracing; I imagine many women think that’s all this type of shoe is good for.

It is an interesting contrast to go from Mahar’s lighthearted, brightly colored works to the more serious black-and-white photographs of Toton.

Toton says in her artist’s statement that the focus of her work shifted after she began examining magazine photographs: “After several months, I came to the conclusion that magazine photographs are not documents of reality; rather, they are creations designed to show audiences new possibilities in their own lives. … I began to photograph ordinary objects from around my house in a formal studio. In doing this, I found I could turn ordinary objects into pieces of beauty, causing people to see often overlooked items through new eyes. The pieces I used became insignificant compared to the design I shaped them into.”

Toton assembles objects and then photographs them. For example, Witch’s Dance features a spiral made from dark-colored sand that leads to the crucible in which the sand is stored. Sunday Morning puts a model’s photo torn out of a magazine on the right side of a photograph of a city park.

I like In Praise to a Candy Counter because Junior Mints are among my favorite candies. In this composition, the box of Junior Mints is placed upon a satin pillow with fringe adorned with a string of shiny costume-jewelry beads. Where else can you see such reverence being accorded to a 75-cent box of candy that used to sell for a nickel?

Both of these artists have priced their works very reasonably, with most of them in the $100 to $250 price range. You might be able to pick up some works that will increase in value from this show. The exhibits run through August 24 at the Quad City Arts Center in The District of Rock Island.
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