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Must-see show

"Marilyn Frasca Drawings" at Childhood's End

“Intimacy Happens,” mixed media by Marilyn Frasca. Photo courtesy of the artist

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Marilyn Frasca is a marvel. If there was ever such a thing as a must-see show, it is Frasca's show of some 56 drawings at Childhood's End Gallery in Olympia. This exhibition is the result of a lifetime, so far, of making art, studying art and teaching art. Her drawing style reminds me of Albrecht Durer and other early Renaissance artists, but hers is a much more eclectic style than that. We see in her drawings evidence that she has not so much been influenced by but has learned from a range of artists from Durer to Picasso. 

A word about her technique, which is as unique as any. She starts off with monoprints that are fields of textural marks with no recognizable images, and into this she employs many different drawing media to create animal and human figures suggested by the textural marks and drawn from her fertile imagination. These animals and people find themselves in natural environments and in situations that suggest but never fully tell stories. Many seem to be spiritual in context, or they are about love and family and conflict. She treats both the animals and the people with great tenderness and empathy. Her human figures are often of ambiguous gender; they are both specific and universal.

There is a surrealistic and bizarre quality to many of her drawings, and a lot of twisted humor. For instance: a drawing of a woman with a chicken on her head or another one of a woman holding an intense conversation with a rabbit, or a picture of a man and woman talking, and the man appears to have trees growing under the skin of his face.

"Finding Eve" is one of the most astounding of many astounding drawings in this show. It is the largest piece in the show and one of the simplest or most reductive. Depicted is a simple standing nude, Eve, leaning against a tree limb. Eve is dropping the apple, which begs the question: What would have happened in the Garden of Eden story if Eve had dropped the apple?   

The drawing is in black and white except for the apple, which is green and so realistic that it could be a photo collaged into it. In fact, it is impossible to tell whether it is a collaged photo or a painted apple. In this drawing, Frasca employs a myriad of technical and compositional devices from pentimenti, especially in Eve's hands, to contrapposto, to long and lyrical contour lines that smoothly change in width and darkness. The figure is Picasso-esque in that the drawing of Eve's body reminds me of the boy's body in Picasso's "Boy Leading a Horse," and her face is like the women's faces in many of the paintings from his classical periods.

If I had time and space, I would love to analyze each drawing in the show. I will mention only two more as examples. "Body and Soul" pictures a sad looking and contemplative angel and a woman holding a coal black rabbit. There is a fascinating interplay of outside and inside with a window and a reflection in a mirror. "Here in My Hands" depicts a sculptor holding in his hands the bust he has made. He stands between two windows, thus creating a similar interplay of outside and inside as in "Body and Soul." We see in his expression and the position of his hands that he is not just holding the head of the sculpture but lovingly caressing it, as any artist should love their work, as Frasca clearly loves hers.

Her fantastic imagination, her empathy with her subject matter and her accomplished drawing skill make for an amazing show.

"Marilyn Frasca Drawings," 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Nov. 12, artist talk 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15, Childhood's End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia, 360.943.3724, childhoods-end-gallery.com

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