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Domestic Dreams

WAC exhibits comment on everyday life by KELLY BARNETT NWA Democrat-Gazette | May 8, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.

Two female artists take a look at domestic life in the latest visual art exhibit at the Walton Arts Center.

"Her Slip is Showing and Other Stories" by Jennifer Levonian is made up of six stop-motion animations made with her watercolor paintings. The short films are her examination of the status quo, she says.


Jennifer Levonian: 'Her Slip is Showing and Other Stories' & Sue Johnson: 'Ready-Made Dream'

WHEN — 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and one hour prior to most performances, through June 1

WHERE — Joy Pratt Markham Gallery, Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 443-5600

For "Her Slip is Showing," which is set at a bridal shower, Levonian says she was thinking about how friendship between women evolves over time.

"I had a lot of friends who were getting married," Levonian says of the time when she created the piece. "As you grow up, your friendships grow up too. They evolve, and you fall out of friendship with some people."

Levonian, 38, is the mother of two young children. She lives in Philadelphia.

She said she uses watercolor instead of another type of paint because it dries fast. She often paints while her children are napping, and the quick-drying paint allows her to complete the many backgrounds and puppets required for the animations.

"Also watercolor looks so washy. It looks like movement to me, so it makes sense with the medium," she says.

The puppets in Levonian's work are two-dimensional cutouts of her paintings. A completed project can take from six weeks up to a year, she says.

"The animation style is very simple," she says. "You can tell it's homemade and very do-it-yourself. ... It feels very personal with the story and the technique."

Sue Johnson, an art professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, examines the American dream in her "Ready-Made Dream" exhibit.

Johnson studied issues of decorating magazines from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as homes and popular culture from that time period.

"Starting in the mid-1940s, advertising provides abundant evidence that owning a home became integral to what is now understood as the American dream," Johnson says. "There was an embedded promise that prosperity was possible for everyone post-World War II."

Johnson's exhibit consists of digital collages printed on 10-foot-tall vinyl panels. Each of the flat panels represents a room in a home whose occupants are living the American dream. In the kitchen, for example, she created overidealized images of prosperity -- a full refrigerator, an overstocked pantry, modern appliances.

The idea of the large panels is to make viewers feel dwarfed, as if they are in a dollhouse, Johnson says.

In fact, Johnson studied a tin lithograph dollhouse, one of the popular items for girls in the mid-20th century, during her research. It was a near-exact replication of a one of the "dream rooms" she found featured in the decorating magazines, she says. One of her panels is based on the same magazine article.

"It's an experience to be in this space," Johnson says. "A central aim of the installation is to put the viewer into a situation in which it becomes necessary to create new relationships with all of these illusory rooms that picture so many recognizable everyday objects -- at first it seems like you should know what's going on, what things are, and yet everything is hyper-realized, over-idealized, abstracted -- larger than life, like the American dream."

The exhibits will remain on view until June 1.

NAN What's Up on 05/08/2015

Print Headline: Domestic Dreams


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