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VOL. 125 | NO. 250 | Monday, December 27, 2010

‘Roam’ through this Buckman Exhibit

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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Aperfectly matched duet of sculpture and painting will open the Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center at St. Mary’s Episcopal School with a new year’s exhibition at the Levy Gallery, where viewers can expect imagery of a physical and metaphorical journey.

The exhibit “Permission to Roam: Metalworks by Mary Catherine Floyd and Paintings by Melissa Dunn” runs to Feb. 18 at the Buckman Center. (Photo: Courtesy of the artist)

“Permission to Roam: Metalworks by Mary Catherine Floyd and Paintings by Melissa Dunn” opens with a reception Jan. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The exhibition is one of many at Buckman in which artists, including some who have never previously worked together, create a show along similar themes but in different media. Dunn and Floyd were familiar with each other’s work before they were invited by Buckman to present together, but they didn’t get to know each other until earlier this spring.

“It’s a fun match,” said Cindi Younker, director of Buckman. “They’re very youthful and seem to have a very similar kind of background, plus their art complements each other in an interesting way. It’s going to be fairly contemporary, fresh and exciting, I think. As soon as we matched them together, they jumped and ran with it.”

The exhibition will also mark one of the few times metal art has been displayed at Buckman. Floyd is a blacksmith apprentice at the Metal Museum, holding a BFA from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, where she is from originally. Dunn, a Memphian, graduated from the University of Memphis, where she first picked up a paint brush. She now teaches painting at Flicker Street Studio.

“When we got together to get to know each other and to talk about art and life, we both realized that art-making is a constant exploration,” Dunn said about Floyd. “But often times you won’t give yourself the permission to do that.”

Hence the title of the show. Their “roaming” took on the flavor of geography and the result is about 20 pieces in which places and journeys take the form of basic shapes. In the painting “I Am Nature,” Dunn layers rectangles and squares vertically, occasionally interrupting the pattern with rounded figures. The entire structure of shapes extends from the top of the canvas like a peninsula into a sage green sea.

“I was thinking about verticality,” Dunn said. “A lot of art-making is just a visual process so sometimes it gets boiled down to what’s happening visually. I was trying to really emphasize up and down, north and south. I like to bundle shapes together and I like what that evokes. Every person is going to walk away from it with a different story.”

The piece is not unlike the aerial view of farmland as seen from an airplane window, or an unfinished tapestry on a loom. One piece by Floyd weaves rectangles of metal into a tight, framed square. Pieces of metal with a textured finish are diametrically opposed to others with a matte finish, giving the entire piece a look of stair steps spiraling down into the center.

If You Go

“Permission to Roam: Metalworks by Mary Catherine Floyd and Paintings by Melissa Dunn” runs to Feb. 18. The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“I was really impressed that they put the two of us together,” Dunn said. “It was a good curatorial coupling. (Floyd) uses a lot of geometry, but she also uses whimsy and there’s a sense of humor about it. And I would say the same thing goes for mine.

“On the one hand I use a lot of abstraction, basic shapes and basic forms that we all know, but if you live with it for a while, there’s a whole lot more happening than meets the eye.”

In yet another sense, the pieces simplify common images in the world by reducing them to their most basic and, arguably, most beautiful components.

“When people see geometry, that’s the only time they let themselves look at shapes,” Dunn said. “If you pull yourself away far enough, you can actually see what the world looks like a little bit. As a painter, I see those kinds of shapes and placement of objects all the time. My eyes are bombarded with that all the time.”

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