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Mary Holland's monotypes capture the thought behind the face.

Caught Off-Guard

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How many hours have been spent mentally reliving a single incident, searching for its meaning, trying to figure out how to undo its impact? How many are spent recalling a pivotal glance or comment that began to unravel a relationship?

The momentous is often an idiomatic pinprick that can never be retracted. Occasionally, this is a euphoric or tender moment, but often the moment is disguised as mundane, pregnant with small aggravation, discouragement or confusion.

These vignettes in time where malignancy and revelation scroll swiftly across the lines of a face and dissipate into memory are what Mary Holland effectively captures in Moment, her exhibit of monotypes, now on display through January at Main Art.

Each of the images that make up the exhibition reveals some psychological communique, a betrayal of the facial muscles. Sometimes the drama occurs between two people who privately emote and isolate themselves from each other in neutral space, while at other times a primary character faces the viewer to implicate him or her in the drama. Holland does not like to give the identities of her characters away, preferring the kind anonymity that allows them to serve a greater repertoire of dramatic possibilities.

However, just because it adds some extra fun to the viewing process, you may enjoy knowing that there are at least two faces among the strangers that you probably could recognize if you tried. Because those particular two are politicians, they might be said to be representative of our collective mind on yet another level. Or maybe not.

Holland has recently broken with her longstanding tradition of using a white outline against a black ground to draw her anxious skits into linocuts or reverse out in clay. Now, like a true convert, she has leaped profoundly into her new faith. Rich saturated color, organized in solid but textural planes, pulses emphatically through these new scenes. Complementary color is famous for manipulating its mate, red terrorizes green, yellow worries blue, orange irritates purple. In this way the color serves as the script while the actors hold their pose.

The art-historical tradition of Mary Holland's present style is interestingly suspended between an ancient East Indian Moghul-style treatment of space, especially negative space, along with opulent jewellike hue ... and the Sunday funny papers. Holland has an unswerving fondness for outline, as well. That and the conflicts of interpersonal issues are two things she packed and brought along when she switched to color. The artist's frugal and carefully meted-out usage of lines once carved and now drawn is an important part of her aesthetic discipline. How few lines can be scratched into an empty shape of a face to fully convey an emotion or an identity? Holland takes it down to the essence to find the answer.

Remember that old card toy with a cartoon of a man who had a loose chain for a mouth how you could get innumerable expressions by flicking it gently? A slight change in the angle or curve of the chain, or the distance it settled from his nose, quickly turned the man from sour to kindly. Mary Holland must surely have loved that toy, because she is now its virtuoso.

Mary Holland's Moment will be on display at Main Art, 1537 W. Main St., through Jan. 29. 355-6151

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