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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tyanna J. Buie Plays Favorites at Dean Jensen Gallery

Artist draws the viewer into personal memories

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The last word from Charles Foster Kane’s lips was “rosebud,” a clue that set the mystery of Citizen Kane in motion. For artist Tyanna J. Buie, her large-scale prints on view in “Playing Favorites” at Dean Jensen Gallery work as a series of “rosebuds,” autobiographical signifiers that connect to the memories of childhood.

A dress, a slightly broken swing, childhood toys and a hot comb are set alone on backgrounds of color blocks and subtly repeated patterns that blur and blend into decorative forms. In the recreation of memory there is often a little bit of decay. Buie’s representation of a favorite Sunday dress includes a little bit of distress. She attaches three gleaming gold buttons to the front of the image, neatly arranged in a vertical line, but the top button is broken, a gesture of wear that underscores something no longer pristine.

It is not an easy thing to draw a viewer into the world of one’s personal memory, but Buie’s poetic choices of subjects and her exquisite use of color combine for a sense of sweet nostalgia. Her background images of things like strings of pearls or beads draped over tricycles become clear only with concentrated attention. These selectively repeated scenes create a dramatic backdrop as an entire gallery wall is covered with handmade printed wallpaper.

Portraits are an important part of Buie’s art, and she handles them in very atypical fashion. Groups like the four young girls in Easter Sunday are poised and elegant in pink and purple dresses, standing in a manner easily read as a formal pose in front of a camera. The faces of the girls are only silhouettes, making our connection just slightly incomplete. But that is the way time clouds our mind as we recall the past. We might remember a gesture or the feeling of a particular day, but the details can easily blur. This is the way memory moves, existing in our present minds but connected to a past that can never really come back.

“Playing Favorites: New Work by Tyanna J. Buie” continues through June 14 at Dean Jensen Gallery, 759 N. Water St.