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Art Watch 3/9-3/16: The Strokes 

Sheila Dunn's Art Electrifies


Sheila Dunn's work offers a compelling complexity with color and textures that capture her figures in a way that a photograph never could. She finds a sacred power in the feminine and haunting vulnerability in the masculine with a stunningly gritty geometry to her brushstrokes.

Dunn's paintings are primarily figures, but she captures something inherently different and individual in each piece. "I hope to reflect the complexity of the human experience, one that oscillates between beauty and darkness, loneliness and connection, joy and longing," Dunn says. "And through capturing these interior landscapes on canvas, hopefully spark a sense of recognition from the viewer of our shared humanity."

The figures in Dunn's work convey much through little. All the subjects seem to be keeping a secret or sharing one with those looking, expecting to probe as much as be searched themselves. Her recent works commissioned by the Scott Street Sparrow Bakery show employees of the bakery, but each one is more complex than that sounds. Their faces are searching for something. Sometimes with a look of defiance or with a sly smile, their surface lives only hint at the inner depths.

Dunn precisely chooses the perfect faces and bodies for her work. Linear, suspenseful and playful, her brushstrokes remind one of a massive system of roads. Each stroke feels independent and almost lonely, while looking at the bigger picture allows for the thought behind the duality of stroke and image to coalesce.

"My process for selecting a new body of work isn't very formulaic or linear and tends to vary from painting to painting," says Dunn. "More often than not, it is a reflection of my interior experience at that time, an exploration of where I am in my relationship with myself or others. Yet other times it can be as simple as wanting to try out a new color palette or vantage point with which to represent the human form."

Her work represents the human form in ways both simple and delicate. Stylistically similar brushstrokes don't make for predictable work, as each piece manages to capture something inherent not only in her subjects, but in all of us, together.

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