VACI’s ‘On the Surface’ features textured exteriors that invite viewers in

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
“On the Surface” features pottery by Akira Satake and paintings by Janice Lessman-Moss.

A new exhibition opening at the Strohl Art Center showcases the work of six artists, all of whom explore themes of surface and texture in their pieces. 

The exhibition, “On The Surface: Outward Appearances,” opens at 3 p.m. today in the Strohl Art Center. The opening reception will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Abstract oil painter Dana Oldfather started out with a realist background and said she takes facets of her figurative training to use in her abstract works.

“I took a lot from that and brought it to my abstraction, so there are a lot of concentrated areas of line and color and then there are more open areas,” she said.

Oldfather said she loves the freedom of thought that switching from realism to abstraction allowed her.

“Now I can just make forms and they can be whatever I want,” she said. “I can think of whatever I want to while I’m making them.” 

According to the artist, the imagery of her paintings represents imaginary places and “imagined, impossible forms.”

“They make me think of beauty so they’re kind of like utopian meditations,” she said.

Deborah Barlow, whose paintings sometimes have 30 to 40 layers, said she likes the title of the exhibition in relation to her own pieces.

“The surface experience of them is really a big part of that invitation into the painting themselves,” she said.

Barlow’s paintings have an almost three-dimensional quality to them, she said.

“There’s a whole experience you have looking through those layers into the painting. For me, there’s a tension between what happens on the surface which can catch your eye. You can stay there on the surface, but there’s another dimension of going into the painting as well,” she said.

The artist finds that people’s ideas about her work vary greatly, which she enjoys.

“Some people have said to me, ‘When I look at your paintings, I think of outer space,’ ” she said.

Then, there was a chemist who purchased one of her pieces and told her it reminded him of his research with microbes.

The varied responses of viewers reflect her intentions behind the pieces, according to Barlow.

“I love the fact that people can have a macro response to it or they can have a micro response to it,” she said. “I don’t think there’s one way to approach it and that certainly isn’t my intention to have it be experienced in one particular way.”