CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Re-collection: Slaughter's sedimental nature

One thing leads to another. Nowhere is this more evident than in an artistic retrospective, where viewers have the chance to see how a snippet of an idea emerging in one image becomes more prominent in later pieces, only to fade again into the background, remaining as a trace while new interests evolve.

What's particularly noteworthy about "Terra Incognita: Anne Slaughter, Forty Years," currently on view at both Les Yeux du Monde and Second Street Gallery, is that the layered consequences of time's passing– evident in the overview of Slaughter's work– is the very thing Slaughter investigates at the microcosmic level in her individual pieces, ranging from large acrylic abstracts to sculptures to small mixed-media studies.

Forgoing strict chronological arrangement, the two-gallery exhibition nevertheless reveals the odyssey of Slaughter's creative imagination. An anteroom located in the main gallery at SSG contains Slaughter's earliest pieces: two precise vistas and a self-portrait in oil from the mid-1960s. Slaughter was just learning her craft, but a sense of melancholia and sympathy for the land already pervades her images.

By the early 1970s, Slaughter has relaxed her brushwork and adopted a stronger palette of acrylics. Her landscapes move away from replication toward abstract and textural expressions of Slaughter's emotional relationship to the land. The artist's attraction to geometric patchwork begins to surface in the 1971 "Winter Fields Mosaic" (although, arguably, it goes further back to paintings of the European rooftops of her childhood).

Slaughter begins incorporating fabric, metal, and other bits of mixed-media into her work in the 1980s, when she also begins to explore interior spaces, both mental and physical, and what gets left behind as time passes. One of her most memorable pieces, "Zagora" (1985), a primarily two-dimensional painting rich in earthy geological verticals, contains a physical fissure, split open to reveal mummified bits of wood and other mysterious relics.

During the same period, Slaughter starts including writing, faded and obscured, in her work, again grappling with time's passage and lost relationships. This impulse reaches its zenith in her achingly nostalgic 1998 "Portal of Memories," a sculptural succession of worn doorways, scarred and embellished with disappearing letters and notes.

Although Slaughter's recent large, frenetic abstracts of looping artificial colors seem a drastic departure from her previous work, they nevertheless grow out of her ongoing interest in lost words. And no doubt they will lead the adventurous, ever-evolving Slaughter to the next thing.

"Terra Incognita: Anne Slaughter, Forty Years," is on view at Second Street Gallery and Les Yeux du Monde through April 29. Second Street Gallery, 115 Second St. SE (in the Charlottesville City Center for the Arts). 977-7284. Les Yeux du Monde, 115 S. First St. 973-5566.