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Ann Craven, David Curcio, Erica Greenwald,
We are pleased to present Oh Deer!, a group exhibition of work by Ann Craven, David Curcio, Erica Greenwald, Kyong Ae Kim, Justin Richel, Amy Ruppel, Alexia Stamitou and Matt Dugas.
Now that the deer frenzy is dying down, it seems a fitting time to examine work by artists who continue to use deer imagery. One may ask: Do these artists have a deeper commitment to the symbolic meaning of the deer image? Are deer part of a broader interest in animal subjects? Or are these people just hooked on deer?
Ann Craven's body of work includes a cast of animals, stripes, moons etc., and she also continues to produce her iconic paintings of deer. Looking, a portrait of a fawn gazing through foliage, is one in a series of small, mostly black and white works. Craven's repetition of a single image throughout several paintings mirrors the mass production of the calendars, greeting cards, notebooks, etc., that provide her subjects. This repetition also underlines the importance of the painting process in Craven's work, where she imitates her own imitations.
David Curcio, a vegetarian and animal rights activist, often uses animal imagery in his stitched drawings/etchings. His cryptic portrait of the Czech author Hermann Ungar is surrounded by an embroidered floral border and flanked by two deer. Curcio explains that he added the calm and stately does to balance Ungar's torment, yet they also draw the viewer's attention to the author's dark silhouette and mark the dates of his brief life.
If Craven's and Curcio's works could be considered iconic portraits, Justin Richel's quirky wig paintings are portraits that redefine icons. Richel begins each work with the reproduction of an 18th century portrait of a bewigged, patrician gentleman. He then transforms the impressive wig into a "living monument". In Stag Party, the haughty subject attempts to maintain his dignity beneath a herd of lunging stags, only to become a ridiculous caricature of ostentation and conspicuous consumption.
Amy Ruppel is a Portland, Oregon artist who grew up in rural Wisconsin. She channels her enthusiastic love of forests, fauna, and fowl into her prolific body of work. Dearest and Dear to Me, two wax, paper, and oil paintings, depict miniature stags perched on spare branches surrounded by floating multihued orbs. These Thumbelina-sized scenes are almost too happy, but the refreshing directness of Ruppel's work wins over even the most jaded viewer.
Alexia Stamatiou continues her use of totemic animal imagery in her collaboration with Matt Dugas. The pair has produced a t-shirt for OH Deer!, as well as the gouache triptych, A Love Story in Three Acts. Act III of the painting depicts a hermaphroditic animal with the budding antlers of a stag and the pregnant belly of a doe. While the deer stands stoically by, a family of sinuous, clown-like characters cling to its back. Although the work is billed as a love story, the characters are somewhat unsettling, and the scene has the feel of a Felliniesque carnival.
Kyong Ae Kim's paintings create a shadowy netherworld of lunging animals, swirling buttes, splashing water, and sparse vegetation. Untitled (Cliff), a flatly painted acrylic on paper, portrays a herd of deer-like creatures gamboling on a starkly beautiful plain. Part traditional Korean brush painting and part visionary landscape, Ae Kim's works reflect her Korean heritage, as well as her background in contemporary Western art.
Erica Greenwald is intrigued by the marginalized objects of everyday life. In her Deer series she chooses the image of a mounted deer head as the subject. Painted on stained wood slabs, these works suggest objects d'art or decorative wall plaques. Greenwald uses the swirling wood grain as a patterned field on which to paint disassemble elements of the deer trophy, thereupon combining magical thinking with systematic investigation.