Akiko Koiso's ceramic sculptures have always exhibited fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, with a refinement, beauty, and a sense of proportion that attract me. Her works transcend their media, letting form, color, and beauty attract.

Koiso has 17 ceramics in a new show at the Quad City Arts gallery in downtown Rock Island, and she's joined by Amy Elizabeth Dobrian, represented by 22 monotype, woodcut, and pencil prints, all exhibiting her organic feel for design. The exhibit is a very strong showing for local artists.

While Koiso exhibits her typical mastery in this show, she uncovered new facets of her talents, too. She describes the theme of the works in her artist's statement: "During the research for my new project, I came across a book of Japanese joinery. I have always admired the traditional woodcraft and appreciated the beauty and sensibility that was required for the creation. I was simply blown away by this new information. I hardly could have guessed at the complexity of the technique and knowledge tied into this craft. Just to think of all of this hidden away was unimaginable. I wanted to share the enthusiasm I felt for this fine craft. I wanted to reveal them to you in some way."

The clay is made to look like wood when she wants it to look like wood. You can sense the care with which the objects are made, and they are beautiful to look at, with a color palette of earth tones with grays and blacks mixed in. The show also features two figurative works that are sculpted well.

Koiso's latest works are a delight to behold. Doorway 2 is a wall-hanging piece, but it still creates a good sense of depth. The use of decorative strips of color, balanced by black unglazed clay with textured surfaces, makes this an elegant work of art.

If Koiso impresses with technique and effect, Dobrian seems to focus on imagery. She describes her 22 interesting prints as follows: "The images presented here are part of an ongoing series exploring issues of self-discovery through the use of parallel visual metaphors of the human body and its structure and systems, and the growth of trees."

Dobrian takes a torso silhouette and integrates it with organic designs that resemble trees. The same torso silhouette will be repeated in several works, but with different organic designs and different colors. Her colors are mostly pastels, except for a primary-colored silhouette heart image that is superimposed on several of her prints.

My favorite work in this show is Free Will, using yellows and purple in a motif that calls to mind the season of fall. The torso echoes the tree form, with leaves forming an additional pattern repeated throughout the composition. I admire the feel of the design that she creates with this piece.

Dobrian has specific and detailed ideas of what her work symbolizes, and this intellectualization seems to be a primary focus for her, based on the clear and cogent self-analysis contained in her artist's statement: "Trees have been a primary subject and symbol in my work for many years, evoking ideas which reflect the evolution of my subject matter. As a living, self-renewing thing, the tree stands for both temporality and timelessness. It symbolizes at the same time growth and transformation, permanence and endurance, strength and delicacy, fragility and tenacity. The use of the figure, specifically my own figure, serves to personalize these larger ideas ... . The gesture of the body, in a rough sketch or transparent silhouette, is used to connote a specific emotion at a specific moment in time. The superimposition on the figure of one internal element, such as heart, lungs, spine, or pelvis, distills that personal emotional content into a more universal symbol."

Dobrian's work, from a visual perspective, is comprised of designs that move well and are attractive. The compositions are basically two-dimensional, with very little illusion of depth and a lot of surface design. Every now and then she introduces the foreign element of what appears to be a woodcut heart, inked in a basic color and stamped on a particular part of the print. I'm not sure that the stamped heart adds to or detracts from the work.

Nonetheless, this show includes a number of bargains for holiday gift-giving. Koiso is arguably one of the best art bargains available in the Quad Cities scene today, and her ceramics in this show are priced from $275 to $800. Dobrian's prints are all priced at $400 each.

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