by David K. Rodgers
GREENSBORO – Speculative Realism is the enigmatic title of the current show at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro of paintings and sculptures by Montpelier artist, Delia Robertson. But the subtitle of this amazing exhibition, “Visions illuminated, Stories told, Colors rich, Meanings unexpected,” begins to hint at the delightful and highly original imagination of these works, inspired more by deeper levels of their creator’s mind than any attempt to reproduce the real exterior world, two long-standing trends in the history of art. The narrative element is very strong here, as is a whimsical sense of humor, by which things that normally don’t go together are playfully juxtaposed.
In her talks at the opening on May 7, and her Cranie Workshop on May 17, as well as in her written artist’s statement and her recently published book, “The Waters Prevail; Ancient Floods in Paint and Clay” (Fomite Press), she explains her underlying creative process: “The forms that emerge in my paintings and whistles (sculptures) may originate in reality, but the concepts and meanings arrive through dreams or in that wonderful wandering across expanses of imagination, that pleasant state called the daydream.”
And later, “I seek the border zone where the conscious mind drifts sequentially into the subconscious and out again…what Jung calls the creative unconscious.”
And, “Creativity is essential to the health of a culture. It not only enriches our planet, it carries our psychic strength and spirit into a challenging future.”
There are over 80 paintings in acrylic on wooden boards in varying sizes and at least half as many painted clay sculptures, which also function as whistles, so that they invite physical interaction.
Several larger pieces are in groups with a central panel accompanied by smaller worlds that are like slight improvisations on sections of the whole, such as “Memory River,” “My Show at the Met,” and “Festival in the Park.”
Another collection consists of permutations on the theme of monolithic decorated cakes, ridiculously out of scale with any human beings. The most ambitious series is that of “The Flood Paintings and Sculptures,” reproduced in the above-mentioned book (along with the 1998 “Noah Panels” in clay relief and the horizontal moving scroll of the Noah Crankie), consisting of 11 pairs of works in two different mediums that explore many ancient cataclysmic flood myths around the world from the Middle East, North America, Peru, Greece, India, China, East Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Among the numerous other remarkable paintings in the show, a few would be mentioned for their amusing titles which suggest something of their visual poetry, such as “A Puppet Show for Cows,” “Lot’s Wife Becomes a Salt Lick,” “Annunciation: It’s Hard to Get A Teenager to Listen,” “Flight Into Egypt,” “The Last Supper With Weiner Dogs,” “Small Traveling Circus 1 and 2,” “My Noble Prize” and “Posthumous Drive-by OBE Award (Order of the British Empire) from the Late Queen (Elizabeth II)”.
All these works have beautifully balanced and proportioned compositions, harmonious colors and contain many well crafted and entertaining details. Human and animal figures abound, telling their stories in a compelling way.
The show runs until June 4. For more information, call (802) 533-2000, or go online at HighlandartsVT.org.