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Monday, Oct. 22, 2012

Dronzek’s Dreamy Visions at Folliard Gallery

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You won’t fall asleep counting sheep in Laura Dronzek’s “Flowers & Animals” exhibition at Tory Folliard Gallery (233 N. Milwaukee St.), though perhaps you’ll share this much-honored Madison artist’s dreamy visions of remembered places. It’s a great match with Eric Aho’s paintings, which also reference places remembered. Walk down memory lane at this gallery in the Third Ward, where both exhibits continue through Nov. 24.

Dronzek’s acrylic paintings of sheep have found a cozy place in my head since first I saw them in 1996 at a local gallery. Big bundles of wool, her sheep are not. Rather, they are both intimate and inanimate, as they pause in landscapes cut through with horizon lines. Neither clearly defined nor of a totally fictional world, their charm lies somewhere in between. Sheep Under the Stars, a 2011 work, steps into full fantasy when a ewe and her lamb stand near a thicket under a sprinkling of stars. The ewe looks outward, a sentinel moment in a silent night. It veers close to Bambi painting, but the artist’s sensitive style avoids that pitfall. Aho must be using a similar magic wand. His Nocturne Barn With Stars, Lights, and Fireflies is sensationally just right.

Freesia in a Blue Jar retains Dronzek’s sense of serenity, and though there is a layer of philosophical yearning in her utopian vision, all is carefully crafted, and nothing demands an explanation. In effect, what you see is what you get. Almost. It’s the “almost” where magic happens, both in her work and Aho’s.

Over the past 25 years, Tory Folliard Gallery has earned a reputation for reliability and professionalism. The gallery’s emphasis is primarily on art with a distinctly Midwestern feeling, but it’s been my experience that often (and happily) their exhibitions involve the softer side of memory. The dream continues Nov. 30-Dec. 31 with an exhibition aptly titled “John Wilde Remembered.” Gone but not forgotten, this master of the Surreal. Gone but not forgotten.

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