Local Palette

Recent Works Julie Speed
at Tarrytown Gallery

Showing through December 2

I am the Queen of my room.

I'm the only one home.

It's easy to be Queen

if one is all alone.

There's more to Julie Speed's poem (above) scribbled next to a mixed-media drawing by the same name on the wall at Tarrytown Gallery, but that was all I copied. I could hardly tear my eyes away from the pictures, my two eyes away from the three-eyed, two-nosed, yet somehow perfectly plausible figures that define Speed's visual universe.

An artist who is always adding extra body parts to figures can easily become predictable, tiresome. But not Speed. She chooses wisely when to assign additional eyes and noses. Besides, she paints so well that you don't notice until it's too late. There you are, lost in the slick, detailed, subtle surface of a painting such as "Wild Horses," before you even think to count equine eyes. The rider in "Renouncing Satan" wears a nearly Cubist face -- or is it a mask? -- but instead of worrying which it is, you wander into the undulating field behind her horse, inspect the patterned, white fabric of her dress.

Speed's oil paintings on artboard, gouache, and watercolor paintings on paper (sometimes over 19th-century steel engravings), and an assortment of mixed-media pieces combine for a homogeneous, highly intriguing show that proves the artist's talent and ability to build on past achievement. It is hard to keep in mind that Speed is self-taught. It is impossible not to wonder what goes on in the mind of the "Queen" of her own room.

Signifying Nothing Margaret Simpson, Tom Druecker
at Flatbed Press Gallery

Showing through December 1

While Speed is a loner, in an aesthetic sense at least, Margaret Simpson and Tom Druecker represent a married couple's approach to art-making as community project. If only the rest of us could find as much harmony in the marriage of styles, the coupling of images and ideas. Their current exhibition at Flatbed Press contains individual and collaborative prints by the two accomplished artist/printmakers.

Simpson, who is currently a fine arts adjunct professor at St. Edward's University, presents monoprints depicting mysterious naked figures. Druecker, a 1993 MFA graduate from the University of Texas, offers lithographs of boyscouts and sign language (using old-fashioned, two-handed configurations), Morse Code, and mathematical codes. It is tempting to assign traditional male and female adjectives to husband and wife pictures. Simpson creates fluid figures that elicit an emotional response, while Druecker's more cerebral work explores (and challenges) semiotics, the study of signs and symbols. Together, Simpson and Druecker create images which are "both male and female... a visual marriage of marks and images." In this, they are like Iri and Toshi Maruki, the Japanese couple whose artistic collaborations inspire them.

Druecker and Simpson work together to play with the viewer. Are his signs and symbols meant to be literally decoded? Do they directly address or somehow define her work when the two collaborate? Remember, the exhibition title is Signifying Nothing. Perhaps a look at "Crisis Cube I" will be of assistance. Perhaps not.

-- Rebecca Levy

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