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Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

Tory Folliard’s ‘Introductions: Sofia Arnold, Nick Olson, Paula Swaydan Grebel’

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When a curated exhibit occurs at Tory Folliard Gallery, the public takes notice. An intriguing new trio enjoys this recognition in the gallery’s current exhibition, “Introductions: Sofia Arnold, Nick Olson, Paula Swaydan Grebel.”

Arnold, who graduated from UW-Madison in May 2009 with a bachelor’s in fine arts, is making her solo debut show in Milwaukee with “Introductions.” One of Arnold’s chosen techniques requires applying ink and acrylic to thin, translucent mulberry paper that wrinkles when wet and adds texture to paintings that incorporate organic imagery.

The watery charcoals, stones and foggy shades created by the ink give Arnold’s long, lean figures a supernatural appearance. These sensuous apparitions in mystical worlds freely coexist with biomorphic flora and fauna that mix human and animal forms. These landscapes reveal fractured fairy tales remembered from Arnold’s rural Wisconsin upbringing. An example, perhaps a commentary on modern society, includes Kissers, Smokers, and Eaters, which portrays three couples partaking in these familiar social activities through several peculiar entanglements.

Olson, on track to earn a master’s degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2011, develops tintype photographs with the “wet-plate collodion process.” This time-consuming, hands-on technique produces an individual print unable to be reproduced. Olson then floats the image in a black shadow box by using magnets to hold the metal picture in place, a presentation that merges sculpture and photography to highlight the imperfections inherent to the vintage 1850s technology.

Olson’s photographs invite an eerie connection between past and present cultures. His images Car Wreck and Trailer Trash include forsaken possessions seen from jarring perspectives that haunt the viewer.

With her miniature oil paintings on linen or canvas, Swaydan Grebel captures fresh perceptions in landscape or still life. When studied in detail, her images reveal a mysterious mixture of bright pigment and thick impasto paint. Yet when viewed from afar, the paintings coalesce into vibrant scenes that delight the senses.

Swaydan Grebel’s Green Structure depicts a partially hidden house in a deep emerald hue surrounded by spontaneous strokes and swatches of color that envision a surreal summer day. Often this artist allows her uncovered canvas to seep through the picture to add more depth. These tiny tributes to plein air painting and impressionism have a contemporary aura.

“Introductions: Sofia Arnold, Nick Olson, Paula Swaydan Grebel” continues through Feb. 6 at Tory Folliard Gallery.

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