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"DIVERSE CITY"

September 15 - October 27, 2005 at Santa Ana College, Orange County

by Kathy Zimmerer


The rich welter of culture and imagery that reflects the varied ethnicity of Southern California has been loosely gathered together in a thoughtful exhibition of six artists whose vibrant and baroque works of art tap into this multicultural vein. This topic of globalization is perhaps overused and too generalized, but because the artists Daniel DuPlessis, Moria Hahn, Karen Koblitz, Nancy Romero, Richard Turner and Nancy Webber all borrow and combine many facets of the exotic in their collective works, there is a rich texture to the exhibit that pulls together so many disparate ideas. What begins as a thin premise finally delivers some unique works of art characterized by the use of vivid colors, complex imagery and offbeat subject matter.

Brilliant colors of crimson, coral, turquoise and green light up Daniel DuPlessis’ claustrophobic paintings that are a compelling mix of Netherlandish magic realism and Victorian kitsch. In the painting “In My Dreams You Want Me,” a string of pearls, a heart of thorns, a pink rose, a fish with a diamond heart and a gold ring float through space. Other luminous paintings are filled with an eerie tropical jungle, floating hearts, butterflies, thorns and rings in a hermetic but intriguing world.

Brilliantly colored images and planes intersect in Karen Koblitz’s contemporary rococo vessels that reflect her interest in Italian majolica ceramics and the vivid primary colors used by Henri Matisse. Using various historic vessel shapes, Koblitz riotously glazes and designs her surfaces, with highlights including “Globalization #5,” where yellow and red flowers and green serpentine leaves wind over the surface and reveal a cartoon cat, a face and other imagery relating to Japanese animation. Also of note is “Vessel with Four Hares,” which updates the blue and white color scheme of the majolica tradition with Koblitz’s skillful rendering of the animals and her seemingly effortless use of complicated, interwoven patterns.

Nancy Romero uses sizzling color schemes and rhythmic contours in her Latino inspired portraits and genre paintings. In “Girl with Flowers,” brilliantly colored blossoms burst out of the girl’s arms, echoing her own lush curves. A fantastic Day of the Dead Banquet takes place with a giant rabbit, a skeleton dowager, an angel, a devil and an Indian woman in attendance. All are rendered in brilliant blues, pinks, gold and green, yet the figures have an earthly solidity that makes this strange tableaux come alive.


Daniel DuPlessis, "Wish I Were in
Love Again," 2002, acrylic and
mixed media on canvas.







Nancy Romero, "Girl with
Flower Bouquet".







Richard Turner, "The
Tourist is Passive" (detail).







Moira Hahn,
"The Scream,"
1996, transparent watercolor on
Rives BFK paper, 18" x 15".

In “The Tourist is Passive. . .,” Richard Turner explores the very essence of being a tourist, or an explorer of another culture. In a large scale collage, Turner weds together drawings, prints, photographs and collages of his many years of travel in India and Southeast Asia. A glowing crimson image of an Indian goddess jostles with the striking image of a tiger’s paw; an image of a giant fluorescent light fixture overlaps two mysterious silhouetted figures. The concept is intriguing, but its unrelated detritus lacks a focal point.

Moria Hahn also extrapolates much of her imagery from the Far East, with a marvelous series of paintings that mimic Japanese wood block prints but are bursting with contemporary energy, color and fantastic linear play. In “Nine Lives” a jewel-like frieze of cats in samurai costumes entertain each other by playing instruments, reading scrolls and conversing. Another, “The Scream,” depicts a geisha girl screaming on a bridge, a witty reflection of Edvard Munch’s seminal painting of modern angst.

Travels to Vietnam influenced Nancy Webber in her glowing photographs of Western and Far Eastern kitsch. Bizarre juxtapositions occur in commingling east with west, as in her photograph of a Venus de Milo sculpture poised on the edge of a hotel swimming pool, against the backdrop of a lush jungle. Disney permeates global culture as pastel colored Donald Duck toys are displayed with ruby red clay pigs in Hanoi.

Full of excess, shimmering colors and global kitsch, these six artists illuminate the deep influence and the pitfalls of cultural globalization and the inherent artistic appetite for the extraordinary image.