Deer­ing ex­hibits smaller art with big emo­tion

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - EL­LIS WIDNER

A warm in­ti­macy em­braces view­ers of the 13 works that make up “Lit­tle Rock Journal,” John Deer­ing’s new ex­hibit at Cantrell Gallery.

Most times when Deer­ing, who is also chief editorial car­toon­ist for the Demo­crat-Gazette, has shown new work, large can­vases com­mand the space, whether he’s ex­plor­ing an­i­mal im­agery that taps whimsy, folk­loric themes and hu­man com­men­tary, Western or Civil War-era scenes and ro­man­tic por­traits and land­scapes.

This time, the works are smaller in size but larger in emo­tion as Deer­ing re­turns to a much-loved sub­ject — home. It’s not the first time he has ap­proached Lit­tle Rock for in­spi­ra­tion. As he looks at the cap­i­tal city, he cap­tures what we may pass ev­ery day and might look at, but don’t re­ally see — fa­mil­iar sites such as the Big Dam Bridge and down­town Lit­tle Rock build­ings. His Big Dam Bridge work is vague, its de­tails ob­scured. Sud­denly, we’re not sure we re­mem­ber what it re­ally does look like, but the paint­ing cap­tures that sense of mo­tion of peo­ple walk­ing, run­ning, cy­cling over it. By con­trast, Door­way 3:00 PM has pre­cise ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails as it plays beau­ti­fully with light and shadow.

But Deer­ing is at his most re­veal­ing and com­mand­ing when he cap­tures the de­tails and emo­tions of the hu­man pres­ence.

Two works in par­tic­u­lar haunt the viewer with their quiet power.

On Long Ride Home, a woman sit­ting on the bus and hold­ing a book gazes out the win­dow. Did some­thing catch her eye or is she lost in thought? Her face is mag­netic, ra­di­at­ing strength tinged with weari­ness. In the pow­er­ful Ar­row, a home­less man sits at the side of a street with his rolledup sleep­ing bag, his hood pulled over a ball­cap. Deer­ing takes an im­pres­sion­ist ap­proach of the man and the set­ting. But the features of the man’s face are in sharp fo­cus in this melan­choly, mov­ing work.

Deer­ing’s skill­ful brush work, su­perb use of shadow and light and well-bal­anced color choices set the mood in the en­gag­ing Fall Gar­den, with its hints of a Max­field Par­rish ro­man­ti­cism and nos­tal­gia. The warm light ra­di­at­ing from the home’s win­dows is invit­ing, but the fig­ure out­side in the gar­den seems re­luc­tant to go in­side. As the end of the day nears, he is per­haps soak­ing in the gar­den’s beauty one last time be­fore it suc­cumbs to sea­sonal change. A bit­ter­sweet res­ig­na­tion to change.

For those who ap­pre­ci­ate Deer­ing’s darker images, Pump­kin is one of his best. A man, stand­ing next to an oil drum with a fire blaz­ing in­side, is sell­ing pump­kins from the back of his pickup. But look closer … are they pump­kins or skulls? The light and shadow plays with the mind and imag­i­na­tion.

Deer­ing’s smaller scale and rich pal­ette makes this “Journal” a fas­ci­nat­ing look at his home­town.

John Deer­ing, “Lit­tle Rock Journal,” through Dec. 23. Cantrell Gallery, 8206 Cantrell Road, Lit­tle Rock, (501) 224-1335. Hours: 10 a.m.5 p.m. Mon­day-Satur­day.


A strong and thought­ful ex­hi­bi­tion by painters Robin Haz­ard and

Su­san Cham­bers and sculptor Hamid Ebrahim­i­far is the cur­rent of­fer­ing at Boswell Mourot Fine Art.

Haz­ard and Cham­bers, who em­brace color with a pas­sion, find in­spi­ra­tion in land­scapes and gar­dens. Ebrahim­i­far works with wood, rock and clay to cre­ate sculp­tures that can ra­di­ate hard-won seren­ity and also of­fer com­men­tary on per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and so­cial is­sues.

Haz­ard, who works in pas­tels and oil, is fo­cused on land­scapes of Arkansas and in Texas, where she cur­rently re­sides. Night Win­dow Over My Back­yard is a vivid pas­tel of a night scene as viewed per­haps from a half-dream state; it in­vites recol­lec­tions of Matisse. Haz­ard’s back­yard clearly is a fas­ci­nat­ing place, as My Crazy & Won­der­ful Back­yard, II, shows. The pas­tel work is boldly de­signed, the tree and plants richly tex­tured; light and shadow add a sense of mys­tery.

On Great Awak­en­ings, a 48-by-60-inch mys­ti­cal oil on can­vas that in­vites con­tem­pla­tion, Haz­ard reaches even deeper to en­cour­age the viewer to be­come aware of the beauty that sur­rounds us or per­haps the great mys­tery it­self.

Cham­bers, who turns to her gar­den for in­spi­ra­tion, cre­ates bold can­vases that hint at ab­strac­tion and an in­ner jour­ney of her own. Her acrylic on linen works also play with per­spec­tive us­ing texture, place­ment and color to give depth to her boldly col­ored paint­ings.

The main char­ac­ter in Jack­son in the Gar­den is a black and white dog walk­ing amid green plants, a tex­tured deep blue walk­way and brightly col­ored sun­flow­ers and pep­pers. The leaf pat­terns are fas­ci­nat­ing. In Crazy Quilt Gar­den — a 36-by-48-inch work — a va­ri­ety of plants com­petes for our at­ten­tion, but the un­du­lat­ing shapes and fas­ci­nat­ing tex­tures make this a har­mo­nious de­light.

Ebrahim­i­far’s pre­vi­ous clay sculp­tures have em­braced yoga-like stances and med­i­ta­tion pos­tures. This time, he uses cy­press wood, rocks, bricks and more in works that broaden his scope the­mat­i­cally and visu­ally. Med­i­ta­tion is the fo­cus of the large-scale cy­press wood sculp­ture Cen­tered. Two other painted clay works, Search­ing for Grace and Grace, are a jour­ney to re­al­iza­tion.

The artist uses a brick with holes for the base of Em­bat­tled, which is topped by a painted clay fig­ure with holes in its back and a brick wall at its front. Ebrahim­i­far says the piece was in­spired by the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. Di­vided, a bust giv­ing an ap­pear­ance of a col­or­ful Pi­casso-es­que puzzle, re­flects the theme of cul­tural/po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sion, while Core Love draws upon love as strength and in­spi­ra­tion.

But the artist has never been more grace­ful than in the al­lur­ing cy­press sculp­ture Dancer.

Robin Haz­ard, Su­san Cham­bers, Hamid Ebrahim­i­far, “Their New Works,” Boswell Mourot Fine Art, 5815 Ka­vanaugh Blvd., Lit­tle Rock, (501) 664-0030. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues­day-Fri­day, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Satur­day and by ap­point­ment.

Cour­tesy of Cantrell Gallery

Fall Gar­den by John Deer­ing evokes a Max­field Par­rish vibe in Deer­ing’s ex­hibit “Lit­tle Rock Journal.”

Cour­tesy of Boswell Mourot Fine Art

Hamid Ebrahim­i­far’s wood and rock sculp­ture, Budo, is show­ing at Boswell Mourot Fine Art.

Cour­tesy of Boswell Mourot Fine Art

Su­san Cham­bers’ acrylic on can­vas, Sum­mer Shade, is on ex­hibit at Boswell Mourot Fine Art.

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