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story.lead_photo.caption "Treelines and Benjamin" by Joli Livaudais is a pigment ink on folded kozo paper, aluminum and colored pencil. (Courtesy of Joli Livaudais)

It can be a challenge to describe or even understand the experience of art.

We might get caught up in the various scenarios depicted, swept away by the emotions revealed and stirred, intrigued by the artist's mastery of technique, aroused by the message -- and sometimes perplexed in a "what the heck is going on" kind of way.

The photography of Joli Livaudais can bring up all of this ... and more.

Livaudais, assistant professor of photography at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, had two pieces in the 2016 Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center. Sacred Earth No. 2 and Grassland No. 4 were intriguing mixed media works. She also has shown at Wildwood Park for the Arts.

"And Then I Will See" is the title of a new exhibit of her work at the Argenta Branch of William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock. And see it you should; it hangs through June 15.

Livaudais' photographs are made on 4-by-5-inch format black-and-white film using a camera with a pinhole and lenses. She scans the images and colors digitally. The photos are printed in the gum bichromate process, a handmade method using gum arabic and ammonium or potassium that dates to the mid-1800s. Usually it is a multilayered approach that creates a painterly result.

The technique is impressive; you'll find yourself wondering how Livaudais did this. But it is the power of her thoughtful, thought-provoking imagery that haunts the viewer.

Gallery: On the Artbeat!

The layering and methodology sometimes give an otherworldly glow that can distance the viewer at first, but as you engage with Livaudais' work, much is revealed. There are spiritual and familial aspects filled with longing, a depth of aching melancholy that seems to reach across time.

In Acts of Service, a ghost-like man stands in front of a garage. Is this man the haint of a deceased person from the past, emerging or fading from memory? A path-like pattern of light stretches into the opening toward a ladder, its bottom rungs illuminated; it seems to beckon, offering a way up. Treeline and Benjamin -- made using pigment ink on folded kozo paper, aluminum and colored pencil -- is a landscape of trees amid a foreboding, yellowish-peach sky. Between, using gum bichromate CMYK in a hand-colored print focused on the window of a house, shows a small figure near the window. Perhaps a child? It evokes the struggle to remember.

The meditative Half Full shows interconnected glasses, one nearly filled with water, the other empty. Into My Body has a surreal beauty.

At times, Livaudais' work feels Jungian in the way her work suggests overlapping planes of existence or layers of consciousness.

All that aside, the art is beautifully imbued with a sense of mystery, searching and wonder.

Some images also will arouse curiosity because of the grid of lines and numbers in the background. These are a link to the very personal quality of this show that Livaudais reveals in her artist's statement posted in the gallery. After her mother's death from cancer, the family's finances were hit hard. Her father's answer was to win the lottery.

"My father believed there are patterns in the universe and by studying nature they could be discerned," she writes. He analyzed thousands of numbers and placed them on color-coded grids; it is these grids she has reproduced in her art. The statement's narrative informs the search for truth, identity and connection that manifest in her work.

"And Then I Will See," Joli Livaudais, through June 15. Argenta Branch, William F. Laman Public Library, 420 Main St., North Little Rock. Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. (501) 687-1061.

HARPER AND BEAN

It will require some extra effort on your part to see the new works by Diane Page Harper and Robert Bean at Acansa Gallery, the North Little Rock art space formerly known as Argenta Gallery.

For the next couple of weeks, Harper's and Bean's works will be available for viewing by appointment only, says Will Hogg, gallery curator. The shotgun-style space will soon become the home of the Acansa Arts Festival; Hogg, who is on the festival's board, expects gallery hours to be set by the first week of June.

The extra effort to see this art is well worth it. Harper and Bean have a very simpatico exhibit in several media.

"Border Crossing" is a mixed media collage on board. Harper’s father, Hal Page, photographed the source images. (Courtesy of Diane Page Harper)
"Border Crossing" is a mixed media collage on board. Harper’s father, Hal Page, photographed the source images. (Courtesy of Diane Page Harper)

Harper's restless muse has recently led her to embrace collage and, based on what's on the walls, it looks like she has been doing collage for years. The well designed pieces include smart retro fashion imagery (The Checkerboard is especially cool), political/social commentary (the timely Border Crossing, which features a photo by her father, Hal Page); and playful images from childhood display a warm nostalgic vibe.

She also is showing her more familiar pen and ink on paper works (Tied to the City).

She and Bean, who heads the painting and drawing department at the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School, also are showing black-light art (yes, there are hand-held black flashlights to borrow). To the artists' credit, the pieces are appealing without the black light, but even more magical with it.

Bean's drawing is especially strong, as the two charcoal-on-paper works Red Violins and Pulled Strings show. Littles #32 is a charming farmers market scene.

This charcoal on paper drawing by Robert Bean is titled "Red Violins." (Courtesy of Robert Bean)
This charcoal on paper drawing by Robert Bean is titled "Red Violins." (Courtesy of Robert Bean)

Also eye-catching are the acrylic and collage work Twinkling Throne, which evokes a comicbook sensibility, the ink on paper Pulp Fictions Pulp Truths and drawings inspired by The Hobbit.

"Swim at Your Own Risk," Diane Page Harper and Robert Bean, through June 15. Acansa Gallery (formerly Argenta Gallery), 413-A Main St., North Little Rock. Hours: by appointment only, call (501) 416-0973

RABORN'S 'PRESENCE'

Oil painter Laura Raborn can convey a hushed sense of mystery in works that often feel like snapshots of real encounters.

"Presence," her aptly titled show of new work at Cantrell Gallery, has several such experiences. Moment of Meditation plays a familiar scene to art lovers -- two people sitting on a bench, gazing at a painting on a wall. Even though the view is from their backs, the body language suggests deep thought ... or maybe puzzlement. It's the same approach taken on The Visitors, this one of a woman studying two works on a gallery wall.

A real highlight is The Princess, a softly hued charcoal-and-oil on canvas. It's like a snapshot of a political rally; a girl looking at the viewer holds a sign: "Self Rescuing Princess." In a layer under the scene, an older man writes at his desk. Is this a scene playing out in his mind or is he the inspiration for the action displayed? Other children and adults are present in the scene, although only one other sign can be seen: "Only Crooks Hide Taxes."

Laura Raborn’s charcoal and oil on canvas is titled "The Princess." (Courtesy of Cantrell Gallery)
Laura Raborn’s charcoal and oil on canvas is titled "The Princess." (Courtesy of Cantrell Gallery)

The whimsical Vacation places a child wearing a unicorn mask in a vaguely Southwestern setting against a dark but vivid blue sky. A lovely diptych, Holding On, depicts two girls holding a string that unifies the diptych. The metaphor of communication bridging a personal or cultural gap is unmistakable.

"Presence," Laura Raborn, through July 13. Cantrell Gallery, 8206 Cantrell Road, Little Rock. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. (501) 224-1335.

Email:

ewidner@arkansasonline.com

Style on 05/26/2019

Print Headline: Photos reveal layers of life, emotions

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