Monkey business: C&O show has one surprise

It’s hard to be hard on Lynn Jamgochian’s work. On the one the one hand, there isn’t a lot going on in the paintings that comprise her “An African Safari” exhibit at the C&O. She shows no spark of style here, nor does she show any interest in composition or light. There is no contrast to speak of, and she has no special way with the brush.
As you might guess from the title, the exhibit is all realist oil paintings of African animals doing, I suppose, what African animals do. There are long, stringy monkeys with cupcake mugs and coconut heads hanging from trees, leopards slinking along dullish-brown tree branches, and elephants milling around in water and on land.
In one painting, a self-satisfied-looking ape sits looking over his big belly with a blank stare as he shares the frame with bug-eyed snake. Even a pair of cartoony sightseeing humans poke their heads out from Jamgochian’s mesh of jungle brush– their faces plump and ripe-fruit round, like bumbling characters from Disney cartoons.
The technique and style Jamgochian uses from painting to painting seem to change– a more defined, harder line here, a more ragged, streaky line there. Many of the paintings have been painted at different times, from the early 90’s through the early 00’s, which may account for that shifting–though it really doesn’t seem to matter.
In other words, while there is nothing colossally wrong with Jamgochian’s work, there is nothing particularly right with it, either. It is a completely benign body of work which will not challenge anyone’s aesthetic or even zoological assumptions. Like safety scissors, this exhibit should be just fine for viewers of all ages. And that follows for every oil painting in the gallery space save one.
In this particular one of Jamgochian’s paintings, a monkey hanging from a tree appears to have cupped the chin of a giraffe in his/her hands in order to plant a big kiss right on the lips, which is, if you think about it, pretty shocking and raises many questions.
Here are just a few: do monkeys kiss? Or for that matter, giraffes? Would a monkey/giraffe couple be accepted by their peers? Should the viewer enjoy the cross-species love or anticipate complications? Poachers? Lions? Infidelity? Just how serious is this relationship anyway?

Lynn Jamgochian exhibits “An African Safari,” oil paintings, at the C&0 Gallery through September. Catch the opening reception Friday, September 6, from 5:30 to 8:30pm. 515 E. Water St. 971-7044.

Read more on: C&O Gallery