Color Outside The Lines at the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center
Words and Images by Carter Cook.
“This exhibition presents artwork by six contemporary Virginia artists who offer a range of subject matter and styles in their work.” This simplistic and yet telling quote is part of the description that will greet you upon your entrance into a certain exhibit in the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center.
One can tell upon entering Portsmouth’s Olde Towne that the area is very much an arts district, and that the Art and Cultural Center is the heart of it. Once a courthouse built in 1846, the building now serves as a gallery space for various exhibitions, such as Curator Gayle Paul’s latest assemblage, “Color Outside the Lines.” It features the artwork of Donna Iona Drozda, Jing Qin, Sheila Giolitti, Christi Harris, Matt Lively, and Eloise Shelton-Mayo. Each artist’s work has a different perspective that is meant to portray different things and viewpoints. They each have different backgrounds that translate into their work, which makes this exhibit one of much diversity.
Drozda’s work focuses on cool, natural colors that are used to convey various scenes of nature and its creations. They are a fantastical, almost mystical look into a the world around us that is sure to captivate onlookers and leave them with a new perspective on the world we live in.
Qin masterfully uses the effect of juxtaposition with her work; she paints human figures in everyday positions but with an element of fantasy added to them. For instance, in one painting, a colorfully dressed woman holds a piranha-ish eel with a large tail.
Giolitti’s works have a more abstract quality to them; they are not portraying any defined idea, but rather they are a conglomeration of various elements. One can pick out layers on the work, which not only allow you to see how the scene came together but also how they combine into a beautiful arrangement of accents.
Harris’s delectable paintings portray something which is quite familiar: dessert. Rather than focusing on a simple pastry, the theme of the paintings is frosting. Similar to how frosting is a delicious accent to all cakes, these paintings are a wonderful dash of color that show how intricacy and art can be found even in simple things.
Lively’s work takes normal conceptions and scenes and pulls the floor out from underneath them. Instead of simply painting a farmhouse that sits on top of a space age dome, is obscured by clouds, and is seen through a fisheye lens. This is of course only one view of it, and with Lively’s work, everyone finds a different scene.
Shelton-Mayo’s paintings embody what art is all about; they make you think using. Much like taking the lens of a camera and completely turning it out of focus, her work gives you a mysterious view of a scene that doesn’t give you too much detail, but enough to form your own hypothesis on what exactly is displayed in bright colors and foggy backgrounds.
As suggested in the name, the pieces featured are not indicative of bland, colorless, un-interesting art; they do not lie “within the lines.” They are thought provoking and at times radical in their colors and topics. They have styles that contrast, so as to portray the artist's individuality and personal taste and interests. It is wonderful to have such things as this exhibit that enrich and diversify our local area.
For those who would like to visit this exhibit, which I would highly recommend, it can be viewed Wednesday through Sunday, 10am to 4pm until October 15.
Fees: Ages 5 and Up: $3, Under 5: Free, Students: $2