See this art: Leslie Lewis Sigler spins heirlooms into paintings at Commerce Gallery
LOCKHART — From a distance, the large object looks like something one might expect to see at a dinner table set for a feast at a baroque palace. A scalloped silver serving platter, perhaps, with an elaborate handle.
Turns out, heirloom silver dinner pieces — and how they behave in the light — are exactly the subjects of Leslie Lewis Sigler's painstakingly refined oil paintings, which can be viewed at the Commerce Gallery in Lockhart through June 27.
The large object in question, seen in the painting titled "The Legend," pulls the eye to its center. The reflections in the grooves and the slightest shifts in the patina begin to look like feathering from some exotic bird, or the detached wing of an iridescent butterfly. Wait awhile longer, and the silver scallops melts into cool liquid, or rippling shapes that no longer relate to known materials.
Such is the case with many of the paintings, large and small, in "Familiar," which reintroduces Sigler to the Austin area. She grew up in San Marcos and trained at the University of Texas. She now lives and works in northern California. That qualifies her for the once-a-year, out-of-state-artist slot at Commerce Gallery, which specializes in Texas artists.
Owned by Donna Blair and Tamara Carlisle, who split their time between Lockhart and Austin, this gorgeous gallery, just over 2 years old, fills an old, shotgun-style retail space right on the Caldwell County courthouse square, which continues to add inviting new eateries, shops and attractions almost by the month.
Immaculately arranged, the current show includes a complementary set of paintings on the long northern wall by B Shawn Cox. He starts with photographs of cowboys, then overlays their heads with colorful patterns. On two central partitions, Molly Mansfield offers small paintings of greenery executed with loose, smooth brushstrokes.
Back to Sigler: These heirloom silver objects not only tell family stories, they take on personalities. One group of utensils, for instance, come with titles such as "The Dude and the Prince," "The Wannabe" and "The Beatnik."
Even those presented without such leading titles are lighted in ways that bring out raised details and subtle shadows. The larger silver objects — these are some of Sigler's first large-scale paintings — grow complex with their ridged surfaces that reflect back fabric, windows and other hazy phenomena that happened to be part of the room where Sigler painted.
Or did she pose them? That option becomes more likely after you spend time with these gems.
Some of the silver is strictly utilitarian, but many of the objects come with fantastical shapes that make them works of art in their own rights. Sigler sometimes piles multiple utensils on top of each other for effect, which automatically seems more intentional than the standalone treatments, and multiplies the shadows, shapes and colors.
Her work is clearly informed by the historical legacy of still-life painting — one teapot could have been snatched from a Dutch museum — yet Sigler, as much by subtracting elements as by adding them, makes the genre her own.
Sigler is not just about surfaces and light. A mystery lies in the base of a platter in "The Revisionist." It reflects something alien that feels posed precisely for that effect. It's a bit unsettling.
Sigler pristinely attaches each painting to a frame or block of light-colored wood.
I don't know how the launch of this superb gallery escaped me. Add it to the long list of reasons to make that short drive down U.S. 183 for some recharge time in Lockhart.
Leslie Lewis Sigler's "Familiar" runs through June 27 at Commerce Gallery, 102 S. Commerce St., Lockhart, thecommercegallery.com, 512-657-1850.
Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.