Art lovers are invited to celebrate the dawn of 2011 with fun and games at one Paseo art gallery.
JRB Art at the Elms is continuing its tradition of debuting a new exhibition on New Year's Day with Saturday's opening of â€œThe Games We Play,â€ featuring oil paintings by Dallas artist Michele Mikesell. The gallery also will open an exhibit of works featured in its 2011 calendar.
Mikesell, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Texas Women's University in Denton and her master's degree at the University of Oklahoma, often meshes human personalities and animal traits in her narrative paintings.
In comparing and contrasting animals with the universal human experience, she explores themes including irony, humor and tragedy.
â€œI see animals in human nature all the time, as well as â€˜human' attributes in animals. This comparison is fascinating to me on so many levels. It's sometimes humorous, sometimes dark, sometimes profound but always interesting to me. I feel the most successful when I hear someone come to a painting of an animal and say, â€˜Wow, I know that person,'â€ Mikesell said in an e-mail.
In â€œThe Games We Play,â€ Mikesell depicts slyly satirical apes, birds, fish and other creatures engaged in favorite childhood games, from matching playing cards in pairs to solving the crime in the board game â€œClue.â€ In an e-mail interview, Mikesell discussed her goals for the show and the coming year.
A: Doing a show about games is something I've thought about for a while. It parallels so many other themes that I have worked with in the past like the circus, fairy tales, and idioms. It's another universal experience that I think is very rich in tradition and meaning, and I've just barely tapped the potential of material that is there.
Some of the games loosely represented in this show are Duck, Duck, Goose, Clue, matching cards and a crossword puzzle. There's always an irony, though. The ducks are deer, and the goose is not, which gives the question, â€œWhat role is the goose is playing?â€ Clue has always been a pretty sinister game to me, and I'm presenting three characters as playing pieces. In the crossword puzzle, I've made the viewer a bird by presenting a bird's-eye view of three birds working a futile crossword puzzle. And in matching, a cat and a rat have been overturned. I've left it up to the viewer to decide if it's a match or not.
A: I didn't own a â€œrealâ€ paint brush until long after I was out of college. My painting method was and still can be summed up by the phrase â€œby any means necessary.â€ I've used everything from pH-balanced rust, boric acid, roofing tar and fire. ... Now I use sanding and implied damaged surfaces to form a dialogue with my subject, and create another dimension of irony and comparison and contrast.
Q: How have you grown as an artist in the past year, and how do you think that growth is reflected in this show?
A: I'm always trying to find a different, better way to say the same things I've always said. This year instead of putting animals in human costume, I've concentrated on putting the human in the animal form. Compositionally there's a lot to work with there. I've been looking at classical painters and a lot of the street art going on out on the West Coast. I'm just kind of trying to figure out what one has to do with the other, and what the possibilities are of merging the two in a sort of visual paradox.
I think this past year I have grown by allowing myself to do what feels right and giving myself the freedom to move away from painting animals exclusively. This is the first body of work I've done that I feel confident animals as a subject and humans as a subject work together to form one congruent idea. I'm hoping the viewer will seamlessly be able to go from a painting of a monkey to a painting of a human face and not consciously make any distinctions between the two.
A: To find some balance and be more realistic about how much I can realistically accomplish, and I'm sure I'll also make the annual resolution to be more organized.
• When: Saturday through Jan. 28.
• Where: JRB Art at the Elms, 2810 N Walker, Paseo Arts District.
• Events: New Year's Day opening reception from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Another reception will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 7 during the monthly Paseo Gallery Walk.
• Information: 528-6336 or www.jrbartgallery.com.