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Article by Mary Thomas

Art Reviews: 'The Figure' outlines varied
work from gallery open drawing sessions

     Artist-owner John Mowder began offering weekly figure-drawing sessions shortly after he opened his gallery, Bloomfield Artworks, two-and-a-half years ago. These open model sessions thrive today, attended by an enthusiastic core of regulars who are supplemented by a flow of drop-in artists.

     Work by 20 members of this group is being shown in "The Figure," an egalitarian exhibition that places drawings by experienced hands next to those of artists who've more recently begun to address the challenging subject of the human figure. This is a generous gesture and, aside from giving more artists an opportunity to be seen, offers the visitor a chance to see the evolution that takes place in refining drawing technique. There is not only anatomy and proportion to consider, but also infusing the form with life and issues such as positioning and composition.

     The works have all been framed the same, which gives the large, 60-piece exhibition consistency of presentation and size, and a group identity. But it also imposes limitations of conformity. Fewer exhibitors showing a larger number and range of works would produce a show with a different intent. But it may be a worthwhile consideration in coming years - this is only their second annual show - because several of these artists could stand alone.

     Notable are Heidi Wettlaufer's conte crayon and charcoal studies that have inherent vitality. With overlay of line and a confident disregard for absolute representation, she vests her cropped forms with a tensile air that suggests life beyond the frozen moment. Linda Seiler skirts the predictable by, for example, foreshortening the perspective of a reclining male figure or emphasizing the personality of a large female model with jaunty hat.

     Also notable are Joe Witzel's ink drawings, which capture form with quick action and reduced line, and Yvonne Kozlina's patiently compounded delicate pencil drawings. Mike Serra's use of shading emphasizes the landscape of the body in carefully composed works.

     Susan Wagner, known for her sculpture, including the Roberto Clemente memorial at Three Rivers Stadium, presents the most expansive pieces, capably executed pastels located within defined backgrounds. Different from other works in their almost existential attitude and illustrative quality are those by Ken Labuskes, who is still refining his figural representation but whose pieces have an engaging emotional quality.

     Prices are quite reasonable for framed, original works.