Strange concept

Above all things, the strange concept behind this exhibit bears mention. For the paintings that comprise her exhibit, “Puppet Fiefdom,” Vidu Palta seems to have used real puppets as models for living puppets (I can think of no better way to describe this), who inhabit and apparently rule the fantastic faraway kingdom Palta has fabricated for her paintings. Within its boundaries, the kingdom boasts sun-washed beaches, thick forests, and abrupt mountains sheltering isolated cities of tall, skinny spires looking alternately like milk cartons or umbrella tops. But don’t focus on the backdrop: Palta’s paintings are all about the lounging puppets which sit thoroughly foregrounded in every painting. 

Though they typically depict puppet people at rest, Palta’s busy paintings come clogged with wild patterns (puppet clothing/faces) and shapes (the wild settings— mountains, trees, etc.). Palta claims to have an interest in color and its ability to convey mood. Certainly this comes into play in her work. Palta carefully modulates the mood of each painting by considering the angle of the sun and available light. Nevertheless, the color in each puppet’s garments remains bright no matter the posited lightscape. 

In “Little Prince,” a puppet sits in the shadow light of near nightfall, though the condiment red and yellow of one puppet’s robe remain preternaturally bright. The glowing oranges, reds, and whites of the puppet’s weaponry and clothing in “Commander-in-Chief” far outshine the vista over its shoulder, a mountain range cast in muted greens and purples. Obviously, Palta wants to keep her viewers’ eyes trained on the puppets. 

Beyond the rendering of her puppet’s expressions— wooden and yet strangely contemplative— Palta shows no special skills with the brush. Her brush stroke is flat and homogeneous, her use of color heavy-handed, and her composition on the pedestrian side. She has come up with a very creative concept, and that may be enough for some visitors. Her delivery, however, leaves much to be desired.


Vidu Palta’s “Puppet Fiefdom” runs through April 1 at the Mudhouse. 213 W. Main St. 984-6833.

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