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art: Point of View

Rather than reflecting the landscape, the "James River School" of artists reveal themselves.

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The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is currently showcasing the "James River School" of Virginia artists. "Fields of Vision: The View from Four Directions" is a diverse grouping of art featuring varying media (charcoal, oil paint, marble, plastic) and varying locales (Richmond, Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Charlottesville, the Blue Ridge Mountains). Gathered together under the general rubric of "landscape," this exhibition reveals less about the land and more about the artists who live on it.

Both Jenny Windsor and Ray Kass have a monochromatic vision of the land. Windsor, of Virginia Beach, creates soft charcoal and watercolor landscapes in the traditional horizontal format. Despite the limited color range (black, gray and variations thereof) and her economy of line, Windsor's views of meadows, fires and beaches have a lush, evocative quality reminiscent of Chinese brush painting.

Likewise, Kaas, a professor of art at Virginia Tech, limits his wooden panels to monochromes via watercolor, emulsion, graphite and ink. His 11 panels titled "Fog-Tears" depict the ocean with sparseness of color and form. By smearing ink and watercolor on Mylar and acetate, Kass creates rolling waves that seem to move, animated by layering material and pigment.

David Chung's large mural, "Hoodoos," is perhaps the first to grab the viewer's attention largely because of its sheer size. It occupies an entire wall, and Chung's billboard style, in black-and-white oil stick, features a frenzied scene inspired by African-American folklore. Alligators lurk, and men are grabbed by strange demons amid a field of cubic futuristic shapes. While the work is powerful in its own right, it seems a slight stretch for the overall theme of this particular show.

Not all the artists have a colorblind vision of the land. John Borden Evans of North Garden depicts Virginia in vivid color. His "Cedars Diptych II" reveals a pasture in creamy yellow and mint green occupied by rather anthropomorphic cedars in acrylic impasto of teal, green and flecks of yellow. Shaped like corn dogs on sticks, the cedars cast dark shadows lending a sense of foreboding underlined by the compositions sharply steeped perspective.

To accompany the wall art, an installation combining beautiful Italian marble sculptures and playful mixed media occupies two corners of the gallery. Susan Crowder of Charlottesville places on the floor black extension cords that are knotted and clumped with black netting and lime-green plastic straws. By combining synthetic materials to represent the land and natural material to depict boulders, Crowder seems to comment on man, nature and their complex relationship with one another.

Also featured are prints by VCU's master printmaker, David Freed, and paintings juxtaposing sharp realist lines and color with foggy backgrounds by Richmond artist Adrian Meyer. This is a nicely mounted show. Windsor's subtle landscapes soften Chung's more exuberant scene, and Evans's and Crowder's vibrant works are cooled by Kaas's misty monochromatic views. Overall, "Fields of Vision" reveals little about the specific Virginia view and more about these six artist's own personal purview. S



"Fields of Vision: The View from Four Directions" at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, 2880 Mountain Road, continues through Oct. 19.

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