Wreaths are ubiquitous this time of year, but the wreaths in Peat Duggins' fourth solo show at Art Palace have nothing to do with evergreens or season's greetings.
In one piece, there's a perfect circle of wasps, forming a ring out of what seems like a hole in the wall. In the next, a snake subtly lurks in a lovely bouquet of azaleas. In another careful arrangement, this one of lilies, ants crawl about on the pink and white petals, quietly going about their business.
These works are full of life, though there's a sense of control and order to it. The wasps are never out of line, the ants keep to their petals. The most things threaten to fall apart are in Untitled (Roaches), wherein the icky bugs are drawn to scale and take over nearly the entire frame, keeping an improbable square formation except for the bottom right, where they start to break away. Or maybe they're getting into their proper place. These are works about order and disorder, a reaction to our attempt to tame what has always been wild.
Each of these pieces are done in watercolor and ink that is so exact and straight-forward in its drawing of roaches, wasps and other bugs, you wouldn't be surprised to find them as illustrations in a children's book (and Duggins is no stranger to children's books, having illustrated one called Grendel Gander the Sinister Goose published earlier this year). In addition to making these usually unpleasant subjects palatable, the watercolors are intended to be taken at face value, stripped of any symbolism; there's no Freudian meaning in those ants. It's a concept that takes some getting used to, as it's hard to imagine there isn't any implied meaning somewhere in a watercolor like Untitled (Eagle/Snake), wherein a snake battles an eagle on a bed of green leaves. But in the end, that's just what it is, and that's pretty refreshing.
"Peat Duggins: Wreaths" at Art Palace, 3913 Main Street, now through January 5, 2013. For more information, call 281-501-2964 or visit www.artpalacegallery.com.