Visual Arts

Symbolic Landscapes and Highly Detailed Oils Offer Different Looks at Nature

The current exhibit at The Jung Center, “The Micro and the Macro of Nature,” showcases works by two Houstonians – recent paintings by Bill Frazier and photorealistic oils by Joan Laughlin – both of which draw inspiration from our separation from nature.

The landscapes in Bill Frazier’s “The View From Here” exhibit feature simplistic compositions with bright accents, enhanced by translucent color blocks or trailing vines and, in some instances, almost appear as if rendered by different hands. For example, the diptych Dream in Bloom shows an ethereal landscape of somber blacks, browns and grays, made up of soft, varied brush strokes against a stormy cloud-filled sky. Positioned over the canvas and incorporating a very different style is a symbol that appears in most of his paintings – a black-outlined cartoon-like vine, as well as a pair of taller plant-like forms, painted in flat blue and green.

His Spring Thaw also is sobering, but for different reasons. Squared off mounds of graves break through the snow-topped ground as the temperatures rise. Floating above the cemetery is an over-sized puffy cloud; the viewer can almost see faces or skulls in its shapes. His trademark vines are present, offering cheerful hope that life will go on, just as spring will come again soon. Happier in tone is Lost River, with its rock-strewn desert intersected by the lush blue river, resulting in the spring green verdant strips along the banks and accented by black-outlined plants.

Frazier, professor of art at San Jacinto College, was named first place winner for his acrylic and charcoal painting, The Waterfall, in the 2014 Houston Bay Area Juried Exhibition. His pieces at The Jung Center include other water-themed works, such as Pond in the Woods and The Window and the Waterfall.

In the main gallery are monochromatic scenes from nature by Joan Laughlin in her “The Forest and the Trees” exhibit. These are full-frame oil paintings of trees, limbs and leaves with a level of detail that is almost hard to believe. Her paintings are so intricate, in fact, that it’s easy to imagine serpents, bugs and lizards embedded within the woodland texture of leaves and branches.

Frame offers an up-close-and-personal view of a hole inside a tree’s trunk, Vine shows the predatory nature of this claustrophobic climbing plant, and Wild sneaks a glimpse through a clearing deep in the woods.

The effects of humanity’s destruction is featured in Radical, with the broken branches and cleaved tree, while regrowth is possible in the rotting wood of Conception II or the bug on the sunlit leaf in Conception I.

Her exhibit includes four smaller panels with white backgrounds, focusing on the beautiful simplicity of pinecones. A pinecone is cut in half in Split, with one side remaining intact while its twin is destroyed. The top of the cone is removed in a clean wedge in Even Though, and the cone is visible from above in Pinecone 2.

Following the exhibit in order, her final piece is stark and almost empty, aptly titled … and all we’ve been left with is rubble and dust ….

There’s an opening reception September 12, 5 to 7 p.m. “The Micro and the Macro of Nature” continues through September 29, at The Jung Center, 5200 Montrose, open Mondays to Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Fridays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 713-524-8253 or visit Free.

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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney