Wilson Center Contrasts Abstraction & Realism

Leslie DeMuth and Karen Ragus Exhibit at Ploch Art Gallery

Jun. 25, 2013
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“Looking Out, Looking In” arrived at Brookfield's Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts as the latest exhibition in the Ploch Art Gallery to bring a burst of color to the suburbs and enliven the state’s recent rainy summer days. Leslie DeMuth and Karen Ragus present a dual exhibition featuring more than two dozen paintings that juxtapose Ragus’ abstract images with DeMuth’s panoramic, rural landscapes. However, both artists liberally brush color across their canvases with equal spontaneity.

After painting the Midwest plains and Northeast coastal region, DeMuth now calls Wisconsin’s Jefferson County home where she paints from her Lake Mills studio and “looks out” at the native terrain through her windows or paints directly outside her windows. In her oil Neighborhood Garden, DeMuth sets a small gray shed or numerous rooftops amid a canvas filled with luscious green hues dotted with a Crayola box of colored blooms in this expansive garden vista. 

In a more countrified vision, the artist’s Prarie River Meeting places a road at the lower canvas edge to draw the viewer’s eyes down a road that forks at the bottom of a hill placed at the interior of the painting. The rich colors of the natural environment, whether verdant greens or earthen browns, dominate DeMuth’s lush expressions.

Also painting from Wisconsin’s Lake Mills, Ragus established the Lake Mills Art Center in 2010 to inspire all creativity, her own or those who visit by enjoying her "Loosie Goosie Painting Workshops." Ragus strokes vivid color on her canvases in acrylics, which evoke introspective reflection. In her painting Untitled 13, warm orange, red and yellow shades splash the white canvas where black lines transverse the colored shapes, loosely revisiting a Miro or Kandinsky artwork. 

In an image transmitting cooler vibrations, Untitled 19, various blue and green hues merge with cloud whites that might envision a place where sky meets sea and ground tufted with grass. Ragus’ paintings allow only the viewer’s imagination to form any conclusions about the subject matter, preferring to establish individual content and feelings, or meaning, over any formal references.

Either artist focuses on the emotive, sensual value in art, the image placed on the canvas, because DeMuth merely uses natural life as a guide instead of recreating an identical physical scene that she sees through her eyes or a photograph. When walking through the Ploch gallery, one artist's color palette complements the other as the women were hung often alternating their paintings side by side, presenting one instead of two separate exhibits. This unique pairing amplifies each artistic style, the viewer smoothly transitioning from abstraction to realism to enhance understanding of each painter and their divergent images. A person visually floats from Ragus’ textural color displays, her brushstrokes flowing into DeMuth’s representational river scenes or skies similar to the gentle flow or rush of rain water.

To experience each artist more fully, the Wilson Center hosts a special event on Saturday, June 29, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. DeMuth and Ragus present a gallery walk before an afternoon painting workshop to illustrate each artist's inspiration that concludes by savoring wine and lively discussion. A fee for attendance with preregistration is necessary because space is limited, so if interested please call 262.373.5023 or email ahelgeson@wilson-center.com. Or merely visit this intriguing and uplifting exhibition “Looking In, Looking Out: Leslie DeMuth and Karen Ragus" that continues through July 31.








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