Arts » Visual Arts

Patterns in Flight: Rachel Steely



Three stars

wUG LAKU'S STUDIO & garage. Viewers may not look at butterflies in the same way after viewing Rachel Steely's closely cropped, larger-than-life butterfly paintings. Steely photographs butterflies, sometimes at a marsh in a park near her house. Those images are starting points for her oil canvases, which are painted in color-filled layers using mostly long, smooth brushstrokes. Steely's imagery is familiar and marketable, but her art manages to become more than National Geographic foldouts when it speaks of things beyond butterflies. At their best, works reference landscapes, light and pattern reminiscent of stained glass or moments stopped in time. In "Passion Letter," butterfly wings painted in sweeping vertical, soft pink and tan folds resemble an Asian fan. The canvas, turned on end to hang in a diamond-like triangle, reinforces this image, although the orientation can be distracting in art in general. My favorite, a horizontal composition called "Citrus Silk (African Silk)," contains punches of thick circles of bright blue and a complimentary orange at the surface of wings that fold in ridges and recede left like dipping Desert Mountains. Steely's artist's statement calls these still-life paintings, which in this case seems to mean "slow down and take a look at life." Through Sept. 25; 270-8258;,


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