NORMAN — The campus of St. Gregory's University in Shawnee has the feel of a tranquil, almost timeless place, and much of the work in a show by its art faculty has a contemplative but expressive quality.
A winged, armored, but not particularly heroic figure skewers a cowering, not very threatening-looking dragon, with a golden spear, in an exquisite reverse painting on glass by Rodica Focseneanu Cunningham.
Adding to the impact of the icon by the Romanian-born artist is the fact that it is displayed in a nearly architectural wooden frame, made by her husband, Christopher Cunningham.
Even more impressive is Rodica Cunningham's larger egg-tempera and gold leaf icon of the Madonna with a golden halo, wearing a long dress, holding the baby Jesus, as two angels hover above them.
Dealing with classical religious subject matter in a much more offbeat, expressive, folk art-influenced manner is Sheryl Cozad. Round and square “Madonna and Child” icons, roughly yet forcefully executed on gold and silver painted surfaces made up of corrugated metal and can tops are especially effective and evocative.
“St. Claude de la Combiere,” the “patron saint of toy makers,” holds a paintbrush and a white, cutout bird, surrounded by found object playthings, in an even more delightful box-framed painting by Cozad.
More conventionally “accomplished,” but equally moving is Cozad's oil on Masonite painting of a priest holding a baby tenderly in his arms in front of a window or door opening on a courtyard or garden.
The subject of this well handled, naively appealing image is Father Theodore Seneschel, O.S.B., who volunteered as an “infant cuddler” at a children's hospital after he learned he had terminal cancer.
Both thought-provoking and charming is Madeline Rugh's fabric-painting of a pink lady in a green dress, clutching a blackbird losing some of its thread-feathers during a storm. It is called “Time To Go Toy Crow?”
Carey Hughes offers us black-and-white close-ups of the sides, head and manes of horses, and Brother George Hubl provides color pictures of chickens and horses (including a bronco trying to buck off a rider).
Carefully composed, repetitive imagery gives a kaleidoscopic quality to Kim Springer-Smith's colorful painted and embroidered “samplers” of cactus and other flowers, and to Timothy Sullivan's silk-screens.
Focused less on the outer world of nature than the inner world of the mind, Sullivan's intricate, intriguing prints depict such subjects as “Ephemeral Fantasies” and a nearly mind-boggling “Visual Paradox.”
Naive technically, but intriguing, too, is “Sallee,” an oil painting by St. Gregory's president D. Gregory Main of a dark-haired woman, dramatically silhouetted in front of a flat yellow background.
The exhibit is recommended viewing during its run through June 30 at the Performing Arts Studio.
— John Brandenburg