Jo Ann Gilles
Mark Woolley Gallery
120 NW 9th, 224-9972
Through March 2

Jo Ann Gilles' artist statement begins with the straightforward admission, "I don't set out to produce a particular kind of painting or convey a particular message. The viewer is as qualified as I am to discover what the work is about." But Gilles does add a bit of directive, noting that her abstract, acrylic paintings arrive from her strong affinity with nature. She states that work is derived from the "intense emotion of being in nature," and she gets specific, noting that "veils of fog, mist, clouds, and shadow invite ambiguity and allude to the transitory nature of things." Gilles notes her historical influences as Rothko, Turner, Vermeer, and her mentor, Ted Katz.

Gilles' words aptly describe what emerges from her work within the exhibit "Escapes," and the styles' of the artists she cites seem to blend together within her work. Her paintings are ethereal compositions powered by wisely hewn palettes and very subtle brush work. They are out-of-focus abstractions of lush landscapes; paintings that do not depict a specific place, but a mood garnered from one.

The body of work on view is not entirely winsome--at points Gilles' fields of color appear simply as fields of color. The segment of the exhibition in which she is most interesting is when she opts for a controlled palette (away from a rainbow of hues), works up the notion of contrast, and steers away from inserting highly gestural marks.

She is at her best in two works that hang side by side. In "World Away" (above), Gilles has selected a green palette, highlighted by an economic spotting of yellow, and contrasting to a burnt umber focal point. This draws the viewer into a dark abyss--here Gilles presents an environment to react to rather than an image to discern.

"World Away" conjures up the deep pockets of an isolated space, which could be interpreted literally as a forest, or, more abstractly, as recesses of the mind. This piece is complimented well by the adjacent "Ripening," an equally sized panel rich with red palette. Again, a large brush softly applied creates more of a plush texture than brush stroke. This element is accented by brilliant, fiery colors: Deep reds are set against the occasional break out of orange and traces of violet. The resulting composition is electric--firing up a range of moods: passion, lust, love, energy. It is the frantic counterpart to the somber tone established in "World Away."