Return to Homepage
Columbus, Ohio USA

Art: Elizabeth Ann James, Columnist
email [Attn: Liz]
June 2007
Visit Art Columns 2007
Visit Art Columns 2006

Visit Art Columns 2004-2005
Visit Art Columns 1999-2003

Charmers: Debra Joyce Dawson's Water Works
Sharon Weiss Gallery

Holyman Beside the River

Gallery owner Sharon Weiss is superb at arranging her gem-of-a-shop for art exhibits. The art always hangs in its own light-filled space, which has been expertly hung with paintings and augmented with a few correlative sculptural objects and antiques.

Weiss possesses pleasing, eclectic taste in art. She appreciates the traditional as well as the experimental. Her various exhibitions, like herself, are always imbued with charm.

June brings “Water Works,” an exhibition of plein air and studio paintings by Debra Joyce Dawson, to Sharon’s. This is Dawson’s third solo show at the gallery. The artist’s paintings have always possessed a dusky vintage charm, and that’s good. But the new paintings are bigger, more dynamic, and filled with light. They’re marvelous, yes, charming – traditional, not trite. I think people will love them.

Dawson loves to paint, and she loves to travel. She describes “Water Works” as including studio and plein air oil paintings primarily celebrating the intriguing element of water during recent travels in America, France, India, and the Kingdom of Bhutan. (“Plein air” describes painting outdoors, and studio, of course, means painting indoors.)

Fourth of July on the Île de Ré
In 2006, Debra Dawson spent the Fourth of July, a gem of a sun-filled day, on the coast of France at the Île de Ré. She spent a whole week there, “drinking up the white stucco buildings, the chalk blue shades of the shutters, the red tile roofs, the blue bottoms of two fishing boats at low tide.” The 9 x 12 inch painting, 4th of July on the Île de Ré, has been minimally and precisely rendered. In delicacy and precision it has the affect of a miniature. We note an exquisite interplay of white, blue, and sun along the coast. Île de Ré glows in a dull gold frame, as do most of the “Water Works” paintings. Les Roses Trémelieres (Hollyhocks) presents a scene across the same harbor where there is another blue boat and where we find some gem-like red and yellow hollyhocks blooming at the harbor’s edge.

“I grew up on the water in Glen Burnie, Md., along Marley Creek,” Dawson said when I admired her ability to paint light and water. “This painting, Testing the Waters, is of my grandson, Tyler. He posed for me standing in a creek that runs through Alexandra, Ohio.” This is the painting that convinced me of Dawson’s ability to paint like a contemporary master. The swift river is a concerto of brush strokes. I’d describe them as “alive blue.” The river has become a sky the boy stands against. He’s around 12, strong and steady in the river. This painting is outstanding, and the celestial blue “splashes” and the unflappable wading boy will catch at your heart. “He’s probably wearing his dad’s old straw hat!” Dawson said. “This is the third in a series I am doing of him.”

Dawson’s white-bearded, dark-skinned, Holyman Beside the River, 10 x 8 inches, wears the bright vertical red-and-white religious mark of Vishnu on his forehead. “He lives in the same town where I saw the ‘postcard’ pigs,” Dawson said. “There were many holy men there. They were eye-catchingly clad in colorful fine linen robes. Some of them sleep outdoors, but they seemed okay, respected. This fine man was painted from life, and although I think he became uncomfortable sitting so long, he was patient with us.” Holyman’s portrait has been painted in color-sections, oranges, reds, and yellows. He is textural. We can see the glow from the sun, not the sun itself; we see Holyman’s head, shoulders, and his linen robe. His scarf is yellow. There is a gentle, if strained, expression in his eyes.

Two Pigs in a Puddle

Dawson’s unusual postcard image, Two Pigs in a Puddle, gives two long brawny black-and-red pigs top billing – or top filling. As befits pigs, they nearly fill up the painting. Yet, the adept artist has framed them with the tan and shimmery water they are slurping up. Dawson actually saw the pigs, a bevy of them, in India where, she says, “the roaming animals have it made as far as food. After people dine they throw out the leftovers and the pigs are the clean-up crew. Of course, the animals tend not to be confined and are not slaughtered.” One pig sports a red brush on his back. The Two Pigs form the most “outre” painting in the exhibit, and yes, they’re charming! “There were about 15 pigs, ranging together in a big puddle muddle,” Dawson said.

The artist has been painting since fifth grade when Santa brought her a set of paints. She took art classes in Maryland and New Jersey. When she married and moved to Ohio, she studied art at Capital University, Denison University, and the Columbus College of Art and Design. She continues to study with many plein air masters such as Curt Hanson, Frank LaLumia, Ken Auster, and Carolyn Anderson. Debra Joyce Dawson’s work, like her presence, is ubiquitous. Her paintings have been reproduced on postcards and calendars and can be found in collections in the U.S., the Caribbean, England and New Zealand. She has been featured in American Artist Magazine, Plein Air Magazine, TimeLine Magazine and The Land We Call Ohio. Her work has been juried into the Hudson Valley Art Association’s 76th National Juried Exhibition opening June 8 at the National Arts Club in New York City. As does Sharon Weiss Gallery, the G.C. Lucas Gallery in Indianapolis, Ind., also represents Dawson’s work. In July 2007, Debra will be painting in the Invitational Door County Plein Air Festival in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Visit her Web site at

Among the Supreme
On May 11, while I was at the Sharon Weiss Gallery, Sharon received an exciting phone call: Debra Joyce Dawson and another notable Weiss artist, Paul Emory, have been selected from over 100 artists to hang in the new permanent collection at The Ohio Supreme Court building on Front Street. This is a new endowment and a wonderful idea, and congratulations are due. In May, Edwin C. Shuttleworth, Jr. and Edwin Shuttleworth III presented a fascinating and solid show at Sharon’s. The two artists remain available through the gallery, and I’m hoping to cover their works on Liz James ArtScene. July brings Kris Worthington’s bright and perky fabric art to “Sharon’s. (Kris used to own and manage Artistically Bent in the Short North.)

Give and Take: Education and the Quiltmaker
A spectacular exhibit at the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery, 77 S. High St. You can see 35 art quilts in “Give and Take: Education and the Quiltmaker,” which closes July 8. Each art quilt in the exhibit is rich with imagination and has been meticulously executed. Although over 90 percent of the exhibitors are women, the show includes two art quilts created by men. Their quilts are squares but not square! Michael James of Lincoln, Neb., has fabricated 4 Square Series 3: Flex. James has taken the traditional log cabin/square series, digitally printed on cotton, machine quilted, to a daring new level. Size 70.5 x 70.5" – it’s a square with squares! Arturo Alonzo Sandoval from Lexington, Ky., wowed everybody with his large Pattern Fusion No. 8. Among the material is recycled library 5mm microfilm netting multicolored threads, plaited braid – Sandoval is the Emperor of Recycle. The show includes the lovely Scioto River Antler Tree by Dorothy Flynn from Columbus.

Sharon Weiss Gallery is located at 20 E. Lincoln St.
Hours are Thursday, Noon to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Noon to 5 p.m., Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.
email [Attn: Liz]

© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.