CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Non-linear thought: Dolinger goes below the surface

If you've ever visited Amazement Square, Lynchburg's ultra-fun children's museum, you've probably noticed Ed Dolinger's giant bug sculptures scaling the side of the building formerly used to sell insecticide. The juxtaposition of the huge, cartoon-ish, friendly looking insects with the no-nonsense, real-world architecture of a building that housed a business dedicated to eradicating bugs is hilarious and eye-opening. 

Humor, wonder, and a fascination for strange combinations of fantasy and practicality also fuel Dolinger's mixed-media paintings at Staunton's Kronos gallery in the exhibition, "finish line." These mostly graphite and off-white abstract works resemble nothing so much as an amalgam of bits of random-access memory. Dinosaurs share space with auto body parts. Musical scores float across architectural plans. Topographical maps exist alongside Disney characters and illustrated directions for installing a toilet.

To create these complex yet oddly lyrical pieces, Dolinger paints 20-40 layers of translucent acrylic on primed board surfaces. Between the layers, he introduces elements of drawings, using Xerox transfers and other materials. He then wet-sands the coats of paint before polishing them with super-fine sandpaper. The resulting works look like tracing-paper sketchbooks that were left out in the rain, leaving the pages glommed together— except Dolinger's paintings are square and perfectly smooth.

Many of the images embody an air of nostalgia. The ubiquitous automobile illustrations date to the 1950s and ‘60s, and the earlier they occur in Dollinger's process, the softer and more muted their lines become. The artist also occasionally uses partial images, prompting viewers to fill in the rest from their own associative memories.

Although there is no "sense" to Dollinger's paintings, the most compelling pieces are those where the juxtaposed elements, no matter how odd, take on an organic flow of their own. In "Sixties Sermon," Dolinger intermixes musical notes, car parts, and building plans, among other things, to create a curve of bold and faded lines that gracefully arcs through the off-white space. Less successful is "Slumber," where a profusion of broken-up black lines creates a headache-inducing swirl. 

Dolinger plays with color with mixed results in a handful of pieces. The pink and green in "Torque of Ages" is so sticky-sweet that it repels the eye. On the other hand, the red-crackled copper and bronze of "Turboflora" is utterly magnetic, jolted by a thin blue line searing through the painting's center..

Visiting Dolinger's layered world is a mesmerizing trip into the beauty and humor of the unexpected.

Ed Dolinger's exhibition, "finish line," is on view at Kronos Gallery through November 8. 14 Byers St. (on the Wharf), Staunton. 540-213-1815.