Rebecca Graves describes herself as a “reflective storyteller.” Her oil paintings indulgently capture reflective surfaces – glass and metal – which reflect images of the objects surrounding them at the same time that they represent a story waiting to be told. Rebecca’s joyous work, currently on display at the Anna Bier Gallery, includes many complex still lifes offering an up-close look at rhythmic patterns and details yet creating an illusion of depth; the narratives of the paintings invite interpretation and further reflection.
Her surrealist portraits also tell a story; some of these pieces are sculptural, actually attaining the three-dimensions the viewer magically perceives by looking at Rebecca’s artful two-dimensional work. Two versions of “My Father’s World” provide a portrait of the artist’s father. He enjoyed puzzles, therefore his life is portrayed as an unfinished puzzle from which one also learns that the electrical engineer was interested in astronomy, attended a little red schoolhouse, and was always making plans – all insights not readily discerned from a conventional portrait, but knowledge easily derived from the diversely fascinating picture created by the subject’s loving daughter.
Rebecca’s playfulness becomes evident in her rendering of her daughter Kathy, an accountant whose face is represented by a calculator. Since the girl was “our sweetheart,” a heart-shaped box of chocolates forms the torso, with a sweet red rose in one of the candy wrappers acknowledging the early concept of the child as “my little rosebud.” Tawny blond tresses are adorned with cat ears, honoring Kathy’s nickname - “Kat;” bubbles floating in the background tell of an effervescent personality. While examining and reflecting upon this charming work, viewers feel that they learn to know the portrait’s subject.
Several large pieces stand out among the items on display. “For the Love of Alice” exuberantly depicts a magical wonderland featuring a glass vase reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s hat and multiple images evoking Lewis Carroll’s beloved tale. According to the artist, the painting evolved after a shopping trip where the central object providing the inspiration was discovered; the scene also includes an expansive landscape based upon a photograph from her husband’s trip to Wales.
Although the Springfield artist sometimes refers to photos when creating her work, she much prefers painting from observance of actual objects where each nuance can be captured and expressed. “Which eye you look out of can change everything; if you take a breath, everything moves,” Rebecca explains. She also maintains a continuing dialogue with all her work, as the creation speaks to its creator, leading to ever-evolving impressions which sometimes reciprocally impact the painting.
“The Conversation” directly invites viewers to share in this dialogue; the lovely picture features an arrangement including two cups of tea plus treasures which could easily inspire an afternoon of talk between friends. The illusion of depth as the eye is led to two enticing chairs in the next room and then to the lawn and floral border outside the room’s window adds to the desire for deeper explorations. “Reciprocity” clearly displays Rebecca’s love of and ability to paint reflection and refraction; three silver objects realistically reflecting their companion pieces encourage scrutiny and further consideration of each intricate component.
During a rough period when she had not been able to produce much art work, Rebecca created an arrangement including water, champagne, and a vase that was a gift from her mother; upon completion of the painting, she realized that she had illustrated a memorable year when her basement had flooded, her son had gotten married, and her mother had passed away. She titled this striking piece “Remembrance;” viewers can read their own stories into the emotionally evocative work, as is true of all the other stunningly vibrant pieces on view.
Rebecca Graves’ paintings remain on display at the Anna Bier Gallery through December 22. The Gallery, located within Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall is open Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., and prior to performances at the Hall. To view the art at other times or to arrange a tour, contact Gallery Director Marcia Weidner at 417-3497.
Marilyn Delk is a Director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.