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"CONTEMPORARY SURREALIST LANDSCAPES"

September 17 - November 15, 2001 at Chaffey College, Inland Empire

by Shirle Gottlieb




Roxene Rockwell, "Grapes,"
collage on wood, 28 x 36", 2000.





Phoebe Brunner, "Marsh
Dawn," o/c, 36 x 56", 1996.




Jim Morphesis, "The Fall of Icarus," oil
on wood panel, 42 1/2 x 28 1/2", 1994.

Walking the fine line that exists between the dream world, fantasy, and surrealism, this exhibit presents eight inner visions of "landscape" that are as diverse as the artists who created them.

However you choose to classify these "scapes," two things are abundantly clear. First, although the paintings are all based on "Nature," they do not belong in the real world but in the realm of creative imagination. Second, the work of Phoebe Brunner, Arnold Mesches, Astrid Preston, Jim Morphesis, Mark Dean Veca, Roxene Rockwell, Doug Webb and Peter Zokosky is so subtly subversive--yet so persuasive--that each fantasized, dream-like, "other-world" environment captivates your attention.

Consider the collages of guest curator Roxene Rockwell, for example, who spent two years putting this exhibit together. By cutting, pasting, and altering images, Rockwell creates fantasy landscapes where oranges, apples and grapes fly through the sky, forming interwoven tapestries of vibrant color and texture.

By contrast, Phoebe Brunner paints lyrical, dream-like landscapes that are serenely lovely, unblemished and idealistic; while Swedish-born Astrid Preston depicts the radical variables of the seasons on landscape and their enormous effect on the human psyche.

Jim Morphesis' powerful apocalyptic paintings are characterized by huge disembodied hearts hovering over raging fires, exploding mountains, or tempest-driven seas. Whether meant to represent sin, redemption, or The Rapture, is up to you. Also included are Arnold Mesches’ 1980's politically charged Jungle paintings. In one, Mesches depicts an ornate Louis XIV chair and crystal chandelier invasively smack-dab in the middle of a lush green rain forest. In another, a young Caucasian girl lies on the jungle floor impossibly working on a suntan from the candles in the chandelier.


The paintings of Peter Zokosky [also currently on view at Loyola Marymount University; see the article in the September issue--Ed.] marry "nature" to "human nature." He creates imagery that is loaded with metaphor and symbolic allusion. It's not what you see in Zokosky's work that's important, but the implications of his subtext. In Landmovers, for example, sixteen earth-moving machines have drastically altered the rim of a once pristine mountain plateau. In Lincoln and the Lobsters our revered president is depicted as a nude swimmer clutching a thorny crustacean in dangerous waters.

Full of absurdist juxtaposition, incongruous elements, and ironic paradox, Doug Webb's work comes the closest to being pure Surrealism. In The Promise, we see gorgeous red roses blooming in desert dunes. In Nightfall, a jigsaw puzzle piece of the sky falls into the azure-blue water of Glacier Bay. And in Creative Cutlet,a gigantic fire-hydrant creates a waterfall that irrigates a mountain forest.

The whimsical colorist of the group is Mark Dean Veca. Using a high chroma palette and a stylized technique, his paintings allude to ancient tribal symbols of female power, fertility, and abundance.

The artists in this well-conceived exhibit use "landscape" as a means to express their dreams, inner desires, and emotional responses to life. The space surrounds you with cozy images of peace, idealism, and light-hearted fantasy, but also injects weightier tones of grave environmental concern, biting global politics and threatened spirituality.


Arnold Mesches, "The
Jungle I," 84 x 80", 1985.







Mark Dena Veca,"Danza de
la Diosa," a/c, 72 x 48", 1999.