I open myself up …

Big Green Oak Man

Christopher Mello’s “Big Green Oak Man,” clay.

Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “I find that I have painted my life — things happening in my life — without knowing.” The new work at 520 Gallery, themed around the father’s milieu, is intensely personal. But it may be that these artists are consciously “painting their lives.”

The exhibit’s jewelry and less-personal ceramic pieces tell a little about their makers, but the work of Dean McCurry, Terry Taylor, Christopher Mello and Stephen Lange invites a deeper look.

Lange shows a vertical mixed-media work titled “Everything I Need.” It depicts a seated figure in profile wearing a baseball cap. The head is surrounded by a DayGlo halo, and a thin strip of DayGlo stripes provides a chair back. The figure is loosely drawn in several different media with graphite lettering identifying his smile, his organic coffee, local honey, chocolate milk, and his cell phone and super nappies. Another work, “Green Swing Chair and Baby,” shows multiple baby legs protruding from a labeled passage of green paint.

Appropriately, Lange attended the exhibit’s opening reception with his baby on his back.

Mello is an extraordinary gardener. Everything he plants grows and grows. He’s brought his relationship with nature into the gallery with a series of clay sculptures about leaves. “I’m working with leaves all the time. Pruning, raking, mulching. They are so important to me,” he says. Cribbing from the Green Man tradition, Mello has created “Magnolia Man,” “Blood Root Man,” “Crabby Hosta Man,” and a lovely little work called “Tiny Oak Man.” His “Morning Glory Self Portrait” has vines defining the artist’s hair and mustache. “Big Green Oak Man” is a life-sized mask bringing to mind Druidic myth.

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<div class=Dean McCurry’s “I Am A Magnet for Devine [sic] Prosperity.”

A couple years ago, Taylor came across an old Victorian photo in an antique store. It pictured a dignified middle-aged man in a frock coat. Unlike many photographs from that era, no ornate furniture or elaborate background could be seen. Nothing but space — nothing to identify the sitter or give any information about him. Taylor used the image in his work at Lark Books, and again in a birthday card for a friend. This anonymous fellow then took on a life of his own. Color Xerox copies were mounted on foam core, and then mounted on thin board painted a flat black. Some of the early collages accumulated Taylor’s signature quasi-religious themes, one showing his subject as a priest with a surplice, a chalice and a halo studded with minute red glass beads, and “Poppa II” wearing the face and miter of a pope.

Vintage dictionaries provided more inspiration for colorful word play and clever puns. The words “Grecian” and “yearning” are collaged at the bottom of one work, and a dictionary illustration from a scene on an early Grecian vase curves over the figure of the man and ends with another illustration of the famous 600 BC statue of the Kouros boy. “Comforter” shows the man standing on, and surrounded by, a 1960s crocheted comforter. In “Trotting Balls,” the kind of lead balls normally placed around the pasterns of a high-stepping gaited show horse are draped over the man’s shoulders. “Pensee” has our hero backed by a cluster of dark-purple pansies, and one in black and white covering his hip in front. A rooster head is collaged atop the man’s in “Comb”; there’s a full dictionary explanation of the word and all its meanings at the bottom. All 100 of Taylor’s “Daddies” are filled with subtle and outrageously funny double entendres.

McCurry says the titles of his works reflect his development as an artist. In fact, the titles are long enough to be journal entries. He does reverse painting on one-fourth-inch glass shelving, a method that appeals to him, he says, because he’s a little dyslexic. Linear and expressionistic, McCurry’s slightly oversized heads accost the viewer dead-on, in a confrontational way, bearing such weighty introductions as “New Ideas and Understandings Flood My Consciousness” and, most optimistically, “I Open Myself to Positive Growth Oriented Influences.”

[Connie Bostic is an Asheville-based painter and writer whose work can be seen next at the Blue Mountain Gallery in New York.]

100 Daddies: A Father’s Day Show, with works by Chuck Keller, Stephen Lange, Dean McCurry, Christopher Mello, Terry Taylor, David Trophia, and Ben Waters, runs at 520 Gallery (520 Haywood Ave. in West Asheville) through June. 350-9430.

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