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Meditative Beauty

Art Review

Oct. 14, 2008
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   By presenting the essence of the environment surrounding her, Susan Diehl's meditative artwork reveals the innate beauty of the world. Employing techniques used by the Russian Impressionists-an inspiration she attributes to mentor Ron Lukas-Diehl overlays her images with thick impasto strokes of oil pigment. Yet the valuable treasures she unearths surface more clearly in her figurative work and miniature paintings.

  The title of her exhibition at the Charles Allis Art Museum, "Big and Little, Here and There," aptly describes the extensive range of places, people and landscapes the artist captures through her travels. In artworks less than 15 inches square, Diehl layers fluid, spontaneous patches of paint with texture that remarkably transforms into a sailboat, a lemon or even a cloud across a turbulent sky. These images of dappled color, light and shadow provide an evocative representation of ordinary days.

  When detailing a delicate pattern on an Indian sari or wrinkles on a weathered Chinese brow, represented by only a miniscule splotch of paint, Diehl invites viewers to refer to their own imaginations to engage in individual examinations of beauty. Her larger works, while establishing impressive use of saturated, vibrant color and expertise, speak to solid, static, almost frozen places or events in time with less emotional content. This excludes Diehl's Moving Patterns, a fascinating painting of golden fish twirling in turquoise water.

  Several of her very small pieces encourage closer study, especially considering her inclusion of figures within her picture frames. Mao Elders, a painting of two Chinese elders sitting on a street bench, uses shades of ebony, stone beiges and luminous ivories that radiate light. In The Conversation, two figures are illuminated by a white halo of window light. Three black-and-white miniature etchings of a summer beach display Diehl's ability to portray shadow and the human form using spare lines.

  This exhibition of more than 40 paintings continues until Nov. 23. Visitors would do well to spend more time on the museum's upper level appreciating Diehl's miniatures. Here one can contemplate small but intimate artworks that illustrate a beatific life.

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