The Living

Three painters show work that will have you thinking about what it means to be alive

'#138 Pyracantha' by Stella Alesi
'#138 Pyracantha' by Stella Alesi

'The Living'

Davis Gallery

Through Nov. 29

What's alive? A plant, a person. A city, a system. A thing that changes to display, over time, reactions to the other living things in the world around it.

Observe what's alive, snap a photo with your mind's sharpest Hasselblad, and transfer that image via precise brushes and well-orchestrated pigments to a surface of two lucky dimensions. They're very lucky, those dimensions, if the artists doing the painting are the ones featured at Davis Gallery's current exhibition, because those artists are Stella Alesi, Miranda Gray, and David Leonard.

Alesi's new works expand her past mastery of living flora and bring, in canvas after canvas, a splendor of photo-real foliage most often heralded by a profusion of fiery pyracantha berries (although the sweet green of occasional loquats serves to cool that incarnadine blaze). A diversity of sizes makes up this latest Alesi selection, each painting seeming a vibrant square carved directly from the air in which the artist experienced it.

'All the Time' by David Leonard
'All the Time' by David Leonard

Leonard's large scenes eschew the arboreal completely, his deft brush instead capturing the human-built magnificence and constrained chaos of the modern city. New York, Austin, and ... is that San Francisco? The metropolitan densities, the peopled and vehicled hub-urbs captured with their guards down, their ineluctable structures rising to occlude an ever-shrinking sky. What pyracantha could hope to contest the argument of a traffic light whose most urgent red can nonetheless never halt the growth of the concrete (and steel and glass) jungle that surrounds it?

'Fractal' by Miranda Gray
'Fractal' by Miranda Gray

Gray's an atomy compared to the bigness of her co-exhibitors, working in tricky egg tempera to create images no less realistic yet consistently much smaller – tinier than this tabloid page – and sometimes arranged with a personal, cryptic purpose in mind. Even her straightforward portraits of people or their pets, her depictions of objects tangential to them, are framed by meticulously rendered patterns of ornamental intricacy. And when those human portraits have their heads replaced (as they do in several depictions) by a set of crafting tools or a cactus or an array of graphic novels, what are we to think? We might think – noting that the foremost of the graphic novels in the portrait called Fractal is Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra's Y: The Last Man – about what it means to be the last man alive and about what it means to be alive at all, among the living, among those creatures fortunate enough to spend time in this ceaseless world and in a venue that holds such two-dimensional delights as the Davis Gallery does right now.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
"Andy St. Martin: The Weight" at Prizer Arts & Letters
In his newest show, the artist is, as ever, nothing if not commitment incarnate

Wayne Alan Brenner, Feb. 26, 2021

<i>The Swallowed Man</i> by Edward Carey
The Swallowed Man
The Austin author's rich and strange take on Pinocchio has Geppetto tell the story from the belly of the giant fish

Robert Faires, Feb. 5, 2021

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Restaurants to the Rescue, Even When They Need Rescuing
Restaurants to the Rescue, Even When They Need Rescuing
We applaud Austin's badass service industry and its heroes

Feb. 24, 2021

Fab Slabs: Absolute Elegance and Solid Utility
Fab Slabs: Absolute Elegance and Solid Utility
These camphor laurel cutting boards are top notch from Down Under

Feb. 22, 2021


The Living, Davis Gallery, Stella Alesi, Miranda Gray, David Leonard

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle