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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Unexplored Territories

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  When artists travel to distant places, either literally or metaphorically, the resulting expressions can be surprising—who else envisions a zebra striped in shades of lavender, lime and saffron? Two artists, Marion Coffey and Laurel Lueders, journey to distinctly different continents and allow their ingenuity and thoughtful impressions to explore new territories.

  Coffey, a well-loved Milwaukee artist who recently returned from Africa, will exhibit her fresh interpretations of the trip beginning June 6 at the Tory Folliard Gallery with “Kenya and Tanzania Safari.” Coffey translates tribal and animal subjects into her characteristically bold-hued paintings. Strokes of thickly applied acrylics on heavily textured elephant paper (a handmade pulp paper) breathe life into the stylized representations, which almost appear to move on the paper. Her figures, distilled into line, shape and color, dominate the space, but also translate the location’s emotional life for the viewer.

  Coffey explores rich yet simplified versions of her experiences, recalling Gauguin’s more complex visions of Tahiti. Burchell’s Zebra (2008) portrays a solitary animal that needs no grassland to look perfectly grounded on the paper. Similarly, in The Color of Maasai (2008), the brilliant blanket patterns covering the shoulders of her subjects. Painted in her home studio using multiple sketches drawn on the trip, these African-themed images are heightened by Coffey’s exuberant perceptions.

  Several of Coffey’s works appear in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and at the White House. A Friday, June 6, reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Folliard Gallery provides an opportunity to meet this prolific artist and enjoy her colorful safari.

  Laurel Lueders presents 20 large-scale photographs that reference archaeology and historical artifacts at the PlochArtGallery in the SharonLynneWilsonCenter for the Arts. Her new exhibition, “Nether Realm,”opens June 5, with an artist’s reception on June 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The Wisconsin-born Lueders moved to Germany in 1999 and now lives mostly in Europe, where she photographs archaeological sites. She uses these images and others taken in her studio to create digitally enhanced pictures overlaid with her handmade fabrics and other artworks. This innovative technique constructs illusionary environments that uncover places where humanity appears to have been layered just like her prints, civilization over civilization. These imaginary terrains resemble fractured societies that prompt the viewer to ponder where civilization will travel in future generations.

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