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Posted: 9:57 a.m. Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dream inspires artist’s tent-like installation and paintings at Women & Their Work



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Dream inspires artist’s tent-like installation and paintings at Women & Their Work photo
“Falling Hive,” an installation by Houston artist Monica Vidal, is the centerpiece of her solo exhibit at Women & Their Work through July 3.
Dream inspires artist’s tent-like installation and paintings at Women & Their Work photo
Several gouache paintings — studies for the “Falling Hive” installation — are included in the exhibit.

By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

American-Statesman Staff

“Falling Hive” — at Women & Their Work through July 3 — is the third tent-like construction Houston artist Monica Vidal has created.

Made of a patchwork of brightly colored blue fabric pieces fitted atop a small forest of tent poles, “Falling Hive” with its peaked tops is as much a small whimsical circus tent as it is a grown-up version of the blanket-and-dining-table forts of so many childhoods.

And standing under it evokes all those emotions and impressions you hoped your blanket-table fort gave you: You feel safe and protected yet secretive and therefore a bit powerful.

“Circus tents are, to me, the ultimate in portable happiness but with an uncanny edge,” Vidal writes in her statement.

“Falling Hive” stands in the center of the gallery and by its size dominates and delights.

Yet the 16 drawings and gouache paintings that lead up to the installation provide the depth of this showing as Vidal’s creative process is delightfully revealed.

Coming up with the final version of her blue tent was no mere happenstance for Vidal.

In her exhibit statement, Vidal mentions that the original image of a blue-saturated world comes from a dream she had has a child. The blue dreamscape was like an arctic landscape and as Vidal moved through the dream, she imagined herself falling through an azure prism.

At the entrance to the exhibit, a table top-sized version of “Falling Hive” offers the first realization of Vidal’s dream.

Next, three precise ink line drawings on architectural tracing paper stand in as technical documents, support poles carefully delineated and numbered.

Then come the luminescent gouache paintings, each a different variation of the last.

In some, you see Vidal working out different aspects of the composition of “Falling Hive.” She experiments with a mosaic of patterned blue fabric in one painting. In another, stripes get a try out.

Pendants top the tent peaks in one view; ribbon-like flags adorn another version.

Vidal also offers different consideration for how the quilted tent fabric might be patterned. A sunburst design? A cluster of chevrons?

Structure is deliberated in several images. Should the tent drape to the ground or stand aloft on the support poles?

In only one painting do we see something more directly made of the images Vidal’s dream had.

In “Meditation Ritual: Climbing” colorfully clad symbolic figures ascend a jagged blue cliffscape. Their expressions look nonchalant, cheerful even as if climbing out of the azure abyss — or having fallen in in the first place — is a pleasant experience.

Perhaps it is as if a joyful blue circus tent is the destination.


“Monica Vidal: Falling Hive”

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays through July 3.

Where: Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca St.

Cost: Free.

Information: 512-477-1064, www.womenandtheirwork.org.

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