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Claire Stigliani: Screens and Mirrors

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exhibition information

Claire Stigliani: Screens and Mirrors
  & Santiago Cucullu: A Softer Side of Futurism
Dates: 16 January - 14 March 2015
Opening: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday January 16, a Gallery Night

Santiago Cucullu and Claire Stigliani, artists with Wisconsin ties who exhibit widely outside the state, have long been admirers of one another's work.

The exhibitions each produced for the Dean Jensen Gallery - Cucullu's A Softer Side of Futurism and Stigliani's Screens and Mirrors - are presented as separate but equal enterprises on different floors of the art space. It is hoped that the arrayal of the shows in close proximity will allow viewers to recognize where and how the works of the pair compare and contrast.

When Stigliani was a girl of four or five, surely she must have been asked what she hoped to be when she grew up. If she had known then what her life would be like 25 years later, she might have answered the question with a single word: "Everything." Stigliani, currently an art professor at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, has been casting herself for years as the central figure in much of her art. Rather like a stage or film star, this allows her assume to different identities-a painter, of course; a blind girl; a voluptuous feast being ravaged simultaneously by multiple lovers; and even the Lady of Shalott, the heroine of the elegiac Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem of that name who is left so startled by Lancelot's beauty that she dies of cardiac arrest.

Followers of Stigliani's earlier paintings may be left surprised by the change in her newest work. While she remains the main subject, her new works are more resplendent than ever in their colors and their profusions of gold, silver and glittery frou frou. In the richness of their palettes and almost microscopic detail, and her preoccupation with mythologies, the mixed-media paintings seem to make nods to the more refulgent creations of the pre-Raphaelites.

Just as there are whiffs of antiquity in Stigliani's paintings, several of the paintings in Cucullu's outing also pay homage to earlier brotherhoods of artists, not just the Italian Futurists like Balla, Severini and Boccioni, as his title suggests, but also the first experimenters in Cubism.

Cucullu has long been a traveler of the world. He rarely appears anywhere without a camera slung around his neck. He uses the instrument in much the same manner as other artists use sketchpads, recording scenes and objects of his encounters. The photographs that result serve as a starting point for paintings and watercolors that, while frequently small, just 10 by 7 or 8 inches, radiate a potency of visual qualities and expressiveness that appear entirely to be in all disproportion to their minuteness.

A couple dozen of these Cucullu's modestly-sized works, all of them richly colored watercolors, make up the majority of pieces in Santiago Cucullu: A Softer Side of Futurism. In addition, his show includes a few watercolors of grander scale, as well as sculpture and a video piece. - Dean Jensen