A no-holds-barred approach to dogs and horses proves hard to resist in a small exhibition of acrylic paintings by Kristin Vails and Diana J. Smith at In Your Eye Gallery. Called “The Dog and Pony Show,” the circus-themed show contains nine acrylic and latex paintings by Vails, who is executive director of the Plaza Arts District, and 16 acrylic paintings by gallery artist Smith.
Executed in neutral looking pastel hues, with an intentionally unfinished look, Vails' compositions nevertheless have a strong painterly impact on viewers. There is something almost ironic about her painting of an attractive young woman sitting on the long, nearly swayed back of a gray-white horse, raising her baton in the spotlight, in a work called “A Star is Born.”
Even more ironic, in some ways, is Vails' painting of a ghostly, featureless cowboy performer, raising his arm triumphantly, as his paint pony rears up in some long ago “Wild West Show.” Dramatic drips play a key role in Vails' depiction of a lady, courting disaster by lying backwards on the back of a rearing brown horse, in a painting she calls “And On We Dash!”
Dominating the vertical canvas is the long face of a white horse with a pale blue eye, seen in profile, which appears to be on the verge of shedding a tear, in “Come One, Come All.” Also suggesting a bittersweet subtext are two small, square, pink-gray paintings of a show horse following instructions to “Kneel Now,” and of a second horse, looking very uncomfortable, standing “On a Pedestal.”
Delightfully anthropomorphic are Smith's acrylics of dogs balancing balls on their noses, and wearing funny glasses or clown hats. Particularly appealing are Smith's larger paintings of a costumed, Lassie-like dog, covering its nose and face due to “Stage Fright,” and of clown-costumed dog urging its parrot partner, perched on a paw, to “Take A Bow.”
— John Brandenburg