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Outsider Artist Inspired by Muse Wife Creates Symbolic Collages in "Together We Can Dream This Life Away"

For the viewer, there’s no “I like this but not this” option with the collages by outsider artist Bruce New at Redbud Gallery. The pieces in “Together We Can Dream This Life Away” are all done with the same style: pen and ink drawings of symbols layered over newsprint, and accented by primary or earth-tone colors.

Every element means something to the artist, who draws much inspiration from his wife, Robin. Winged creatures have the power of flight, and he also intersperses the letter “R” with dates that are important to New and his relationship. Mixed in are totems and arrows, alluding to his muse’s Cherokee heritage.

Everything in the show is interesting, or at least what can be seen. It was difficult to view five of the collages because the glare of the afternoon sun bounced off the artwork; summertime in Houston can be hellish.

Mixing tans, blues and blacks, The Oracle Said That The Secret Was Love shows a split-screen composition. Angular characters with buildings on their heads flank a central character sporting a stocking-clad angel on his corona. She appears again in the side panel, rotated 90 degrees and more prominently the focal point.

Slightly evocative of Third Reich heraldry, but without any of the maniacal monstrosities, is The Muse Hides The Sun From Sight. The upper half features symmetrical silhouettes of winged creatures, lightning bolts and hearts, and anchoring the composition are a dozen bombs arranged with meticulous order.

There’s a definite appeal to New's cityscapes. Row upon row and layer upon layer of tall and imperfect houses, touching each other with pointed roofs. A side profile of a silhouetted head contains nine floating, faceted gemstones in The Vision At The Crystal City. Along for the ride are demonic characters with Christian symbols and the stocking-wearing Robin figure.

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The houses appear again in The Sun Alliance, with a cascading staircase of white houses fronting a red city and then a yellow one. Floating above the city is a merman, his fish tail ending in a barb and his torso adorned with a skull. Angels and Robins float everywhere, as well as the number 17; the piece seems to be a visual love letter to his wife.

Blueprint For Building A Bird Cathedral also invokes symmetry. Floating angels and the sun are arranged in an arch, and inside the worship space are a flower, a flying saucer and the beloved Robin.

New’s drawing style is certainly unique. The eyes of his characters have two irises, and in some instances they have a double row of eyes. It’s Cubist in style, though highly edited, allowing the negative space to show the layered and yellowed newspaper below. The exhibit is presented in collaboration with Jay Wehnert and Intuitive Eye.

“Together We Can Dream This Life Away” continues through July 26 at Redbud Gallery, 303 East 11th Street, open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., 713-862-2532, redbudgallery.com. Free.

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