Arts » Visual Arts

The Proper Balance

Multilayered works offer plenty to see


Asheville artist Barbara Fisher presents paintings filled with pleasing color and often too much to see. The multilayered works featured in her exhibit Balance (currently at the Hidell Brooks Gallery) require a commitment of time to glean their sometimes hundreds of different elements. Looking at these visually packed works is like looking at everything that takes place in a dream all at once. The eye longs to tie all of Fisher's images together into a narrative, but there's too much here to fit a single tale.

These paintings seem very personal to the artist: They seem to represent what she needs to feel and see to "balance" her life in reference to the title of the exhibit. These paintings will also reach the viewer in extremely personal ways.

The first layer of Fisher's work is made of wallpaper, postcards or sheet music. The second layer often includes glass beads, and then she paints on top of that with oil paint. In addition to painted images, the artist's compositions also incorporate collaged comic strips, some political and some profane.

She draws on many references. In several of her works, she includes a picture of artwork by a famous artist. For example, in "The Lay of the Land," one of Arshile Gorky's (1904-1948) works is displayed upside down. Another painting, "New World Disorder," features a hidden "Mona Lisa."

"I've developed my own "vocabulary' of images that reappear in my work," states Fisher. "Vessels made of clay, glass or metal, boats and trains, shoes, rows of small animals and botanical images."

Her color schemes often rely on the warm colors associated with Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and the Parisian art movement known as les Fauves (1905-1908).

In the late 1970s, artists such as Lois Lane and Nicholas Africano began to use recognizable images again and were grouped with similar painters creating "New Image Painting." Fisher's works would fit right in, except that the New Image painters usually placed their images on an empty background -- a negative space -- while Fisher's images are almost always packed in with other ones.

Looking at many of Fisher's works is akin to watching a scene from a futuristic movie. This should come as no surprise when we learn that, in addition to creating her paintings, Fisher also promotes shows of science fiction book jackets and games.

Barbara Fisher's exhibit Balance continues at the Hidell Brooks Gallery, 1910 South Blvd., Suite 130, through Saturday, July 24. Gallery hours are 10am-6pm Tuesday-Friday and 10am-4pm Saturday. For additional information, call 704-334-7302.

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