Places to go
Elizabeth Schoyer calls her latest exhibit “Dictionary of Imaginary Places,” though “dictionary” doesn’t quite describe what Schoyer’s up to here. The artist seems to draw some inspiration from 19th century science and exploration narratives, as such titles as “Bartam’s Travels” and “Linneaus’s Theory” suggest. Using oils and pencils, Schoyer creates semi-abstracted, highly stylized catalogs or notebooks of distant places, like something out of a Jorge Luis Borges short story.
In nearly every piece, a rigid visual duality is at work. Schoyer fashions her backgrounds and landscapes from oils in bright, Easter egg colors and indistinct shapes. The man-made (tents, buildings) and the living (small sea creatures), however, are often depicted in graphite and white pencil, giving them an incomplete, skeletal look. It’s a subtle, complementary palimpsest and one that folds uninhabited landscape and drawings from an explorer’s sketchbook into the same space.
Animals may turn up on occasion, as in “Bartram’s Travels,” a green swampy space where bugs and small animals float around like cereal in a bowl of milk. But the human element is present only in its trappings.
In “Landing of the Narwhal,” large, indistinct shapes give the impression of a polar scene of cracked ice. In the center of the canvas, Schoyer has broken out the pencils and sketched what appears to be a blimp or hot air balloon splayed out on its side.
In the blotchy red and yellow field of “Catesby’s Collection,” Schoyer sketches twin structures which could be rockets, nets or jungle gyms. Sea creatures float around inside the objects, which Schoyer draws with a wobbly freehand.
Schoyer has participated in a couple of group shows around town, but this is the first opportunity in some time to view full-on Schoyer. The exhibit, however, isn’t as meaty as it first seems— much of the work represented reappears elsewhere in the exhibit in smaller scale.
Les Yeux du Monde presents Elizabeth Schoyer’s exhibit of paintings, "A Dictionary of Imaginary Places," through May 25. 705 W. Main St. 973-5566