By Tom Wachunas
“Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing sensations.”
“I don’t paint things. I only paint the difference between things.”
EXHIBIT: Organic Medley- art by Irene Tobias Rodriguez, at the Little Art Gallery, located in the North Canton Public Library THROUGH JULY 12, 185 North Main Street, North Canton/ 330-499-4712, Ext. 312
This one almost got away from me, and I apologize for the late posting. But if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s just six days left (gallery closed on Sundays in summer) to see a generous sampling of work from one of this area’s more versatile and prolific artists.
The creative sensibilities of Irene Tobias Rodriguez are so eclectic that were she a songwriter, her tunes might be variously categorized as easy listening (light classical), folk, pop, even jazz. As it is, the award-winning, robust diversity on view here takes the form of mixed media sculpture (including painted gourds), quilts, woven baskets, jewelry, drawings, digital art (mixed media) and acrylic painting.
In the realm of painting, her well-crafted style is representational and hovers somewhere between the fluid, painterly surfaces of Impressionism and the more exacting details and textures of Realism. Genres range from maritime and landscape (urban and natural) to still life, floral and animal.
I was particularly drawn to two aspects of the paintings, the first being what Rodriguez calls her Puzzle Paintings. Seven of them are on view here. These scenes are executed on separately cut pieces of board and assembled into a whole, like a puzzle.
Each piece is a “mini” painting in itself, and their junctures create a linear element threaded throughout the picture plane. It’s a playful technique, to be sure. Yet rather than crudely fragment or intrude upon the overall unity of the image, this method intensifies the experience of pictorial depth in a fresh way, not too unlike Paul Cezanne’s explorations of binocular vision, rendering simultaneous viewpoints of a thing.
In her exquisite Segments of an Apple Tree, for example, Rodriquez presents the apples convincingly enough as sumptuous, discrete orbs while introducing spatial distortions. Subtle shifts of details on the surfaces are such that our sense of nearness to, or distance from the fruit generates a pulsating effect. The ambiguities of depth and light that this method allows are even more amplified in the equally intricate Lone Feather, wherein a few of the puzzle segments are sunk below the surface of the painting.
As for the second aforementioned intriguing aspect, there are two works here that are of a distinctly different character than the rest of the acrylic paintings. Each manifests a Modernist ideation that, prior to seeing this show, I didn’t really think was a significant component in Rodriguez’s already impressive creative arsenal. The two men in the dramatic Ordinary Discussion are rendered with a fluidity of line and intensity of palette that evokes the brooding lyricism of European Expressionists such as Munch, Kirchner or Nolde. And the somewhat abstract Rabbits Two exudes an ebullient color dynamic and elegant compositional balance that brings to mind Matisse, particularly when he observed that, “…in all the tones there must result a living harmony of colors, a harmony analogous to that of a musical composition.”
So maybe in a metaphorical sense, Rodriguez is a songwriter, and a very facile one at that, capable of changing her tunes to best fit the idea at hand. You could count these two works, along with her Puzzle Paintings, among her greatest hits.
PHOTOS, courtesy Irene Tobias Rodriguez, from top: Lily Path; Segments of an Apple Tree; Lone Feather; Ordinary Discussion; Rabbits Two