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Three women

New works at Aliya Gallery

In terms of subject matter, you probably couldn't find three female artists more different than C. Dawn Davis, Pamela Murphy and Gwen Wong.

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Davis' darkly psychological paintings of a Frida Kahlo-style woman with butterfly skirt and green pompadour or sallow men and women in toy-filled workrooms mix fairy tale and gothic adult fantasy, innocence and kink, astrology and V.C. Andrews.

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While Davis' subjects range from chiseled nudes to eerie children, Wong has only one subject. Her fixation? Velvety Weimaraners, who, like one of William Wegman's dogs or the canine hero of a children's book, get into adorably existential doggie scrapes with grasshoppers and red balls and fish bowls.

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Pamela Murphy, meanwhile, is fixated on antiquated images of people, mostly children, lifted from vintage photographs. Murphy's little girls in white dresses or young ladies in prim bonnets are adrift on vast canvases with the distressed, weathered look of decomposing film stock or walls whose plaster has begun to peel away in multicolored layers to visually evoke time's passage.

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And yet, despite their very different subject matter and styles, these three painters couldn't be closer in sensibility. All bring a touch of magical realism and melancholy to their work whether in the gothic, Cirque de Soleil ambiance of Davis' scenarios, or the odd, theatrical tableaux of dog-meets-world acted out in Wong's. All three artists are entranced by a highly theatrical, stylized, controlled space. Wong's Weimaraners are representative of that tendency. They don't occupy any real, recognizable space. Instead they play and ponder against simplified backgrounds where a horizon line or simply rendered brown hill against a flat, blue sky gives things a stage-set surrealism.

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Together, the artists make curatorial sense, even if all of them in the same gallery space also tend to point out a shared tendency toward preciousness, strained romanticism and scenarios that can look psychological in one canvas and then cloying and affected in the next. Each artist has one or two standouts and then works that feel half-cocked, as if the artist was only working at half-power.

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Check out more photos from this show in our gallery.



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