A focus on lines, and women, in new Pyro exhibit

“Bariatric Pressure” by Debra Lott

“Bariatric Pressure” by Debra Lott

Art educators see art through the eyes of others; after all, it’s part of their job description. Fiber artist Melinda Snyder and painter Debra Lott are artists first and educators second, but they have mastered this necessary duality relating to art. They are accustomed to sharing.

The quick and spontaneous lines made by her young art students greatly intrigued Snyder. Children are natural-born artists, but the majority choose other outlets for creativity as they age. If a child is still producing art after reaching age 10, he or she is on the road to being a visually creative person for life.

Thus inspired, line becomes the primary focus of Snyder’s “Skeleton Leaf” series. The shapes and details of “Skeleton Leaf, Gingko,” “Skeleton Leaf, Red Oak” and “Skeleton Leaf, Sycamore” are made by lines stitched onto acrylic-painted canvas. These transparent, fragile embroidered lines realistically resemble elements of nature. There’s a point of split-second uncertainty whether they are extremely delicate real leaves mounted on cloth or an artist’s rendition.

Line also plays a part in Snyder’s wall quilts, although it takes a step back to color. The painted canvas and silk “Fundamental Green” and “Red, Brown, Green” of hand-dyed cotton, silk and linen use varying thickness of lines. Alternating geometric shapes in bright complementary color schemes form the nonrepresentational compositions. They are similar to the painted designs of Piet Mondrian, who desired to express calming harmony through the use of horizontal and vertical lines in bright colors. As stated in the press release, Snyder’s textiles express “a meditative process for (her) that produces a series of bold designs, a feast for the viewer’s eyes.” Mondrian would agree.

Debra Lott’s work is all about women, some revealing information based in truth, while others expose a society-wide fabrication. The single and diptych large oil paintings (Lott thinks “you’re part of the painting’s impact” when they’re large) reflect her perspective and insights, partially gleaned from her experience as a high school art teacher.

Her “Elderly Women” series promotes the beauty and strength of female senior citizens. A chance meeting with artist Elmer Lucille Allen led Lott to ask to paint her. She couldn’t have picked a better subject. Allen is a prime example of a life well led, and both paintings of her, “Embracing Hope” and “Her Legacy,” highlight Lott’s favorite focal points. “Character — the faces and hands tell the story,” she says. Lott’s choice of a blue background against Allen’s dark skin is another reason the work grabs the attention of viewers.

Her second series is a comparison and disheartening contrast to the first. The “Mannequin” series can be summed up as idealized female figures representing “the self-indulgences and narcissistic tendencies of society,” words posted on the gallery walls.

As she explains in her artist statement, “Mannequins serve as iconic symbols of humanity, especially of women. They tell women who they are today, who they were yesterday and what they will become. My paintings of mannequins often display their deterioration as they are cast aside for tomorrow’s choice.”

Armless, hollow mannequins are encased in tubes of atmospheric weight in “Bariatric Pressure.” While first attracted by the colors, it doesn’t take much to read it as a metaphor for women in society. Color again draws you to examine “Specimen.” Shown sitting in a veil of green, the mannequin is an elegant but vapid poseur surrounded by a sheer sling of color. The wall text states “preserved as an ideal form.”  

“Cultural Bondage” is an even stronger and more obvious take on societal restraints. Two mannequins, back to back, are bound with rope. Their lack of arms further highlights the point. Since Lott chooses to illustrate in her “Elderly Women” series that the hands are a primary focus displaying usefulness in society, the lack of arms in the “Mannequin” series slam home the idea of an object with little function other than to be stared at and admired from afar.

Interesting note: None of her painted mannequins, or the real mannequins scattered around the gallery, have the erect nipples seen on mannequins today. Lott exclaimed she’s “not ready to handle that” part of contemporary society. If mannequins “tell women who they are today,” what are these current models telling us, besides to wear a bra?

‘Elements and Icons:
The art of Melinda Snyder and Debra Lott’  
Through June 23
Pyro Gallery
624 W. Main St.