BANDON — Continuing through January, “Oracles and Icons” paintings by Angela Passalacqua and a vintage tin collection from Dawn Vonderlin will be on display at the Bandon Library Art Gallery.
Human beings have been telling and retelling stories since the beginning of time, stories that function to untangle mysteries and describe the truths of our world. Out of these stories grew symbolic figures so pervasive as to become iconic and universally understood, allowing cultures to communicate across time. Passalacqua draws upon such iconography, creating paintings whose stories we recognize, even as viewers puzzle out their specifics. The technological world vies with nature in "The Sextant and the Apple"; the implacable oracle speaks; Hermes delivers her message; the Zodiac tells its tale of human and cosmic evolution; the calm innocence of the cherub reminds us of the need for simplicity in a complex world; and, always, dreams — our own, private oracles — thrust themselves into our consciousness. There is much more to life than what we experience awake, and more to know than what we can deliberately learn.
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Painting with oils on wood, Passalacqua creates surfaces that are textured, fresco-like. They feel old, their colors glowing softly as though mellowed with time. Birds, maidens, moons, ships, clouds, musical instruments, float through these images that are both classical and entirely contemporary and original. The multiplicity of these images reflects the depths of understanding available to us; they tell stories we already know, yet need to hear again and again.
Certainly no world has so thoroughly understood and harnessed the power of storytelling through iconography as the world of advertising. Images that bypass the analytical process to speak directly to, and manipulate, human needs and desires is the goal of advertising, and these images work to great effect, as we often know to our cost. But through the lens of nostalgia, and with admiration for the imagination and talent of the artists of yesterday, we can appreciate this collection of vintage tins, shared by Vonderlin. Look beyond the surfaces to find the hidden treasures here: Take note of the surrealistic image on a can of Colgate's Baby Talc: The baby holds a can of talc, on which a baby holds a can of talc, and so on and so on, presumably to infinity. The charm of this collection lies in such cleverness, as well as the callback to that impossibly perfect place where we never lived: the past.