Smile Politely

“An Analogy” sets the Analog gallery awash in blooms, landscapes, and poignant still lifes

There is a lot of artistic talent in this town, and lately, much of it is finding its way onto the walls of Analog’s gallery. Cinda Womble Pettigrew and Judith Baker-Barrows first came onto my radar through social media but this was my first time seeing either artist’s work up close.  And like all of my Analog experiences to date, “An Analogy” did not disappoint. In fact, the promotional materials hardly did justice to the vibrancy and range of the show. 

Arriving at the gallery several days after the opening, I hoped I had not missed my chance to get some fascinating piece of contextualizing information that I could share here and which would allow me to dig deeper into my analysis of the show. Right inside the entrance were two artist statements, both of which were wildly different from your standard cerebral statement fare. These were personal, honest, welcoming, and unpretentious. Each began with a small smiling photo of the artist and ended with a humble and warm hope that we would find as much pleasure in the viewing of the art as they experienced in its making. 

There were some illuminating bits of biography, which I’ll get to in a minute, but nothing that would in its absence detract from your ability to find pleasure in the work. And at the risk of relying on cliche, this show really does have something for everyone, no matter their taste or style. For someone who spends her time researching, analyzing, contextualizing—the invitation to cast all that aside was a surprisingly welcome one. 

At first I gravitated towards works that fell within my taste wheelhouse, city scenes, or “snapshots” of quiet moments, the moments right something happens, as in the two pieces below by Baker-Barrows.  Baker-Barrows’ background in photography is evident in both the composition and the choice of subject matter.  It makes her point of view unique. 

On My Street and Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler, Judith Baker-Barrow

From there I headed to Baker-Barrow’s still lifes and was won over by their range, their humor, their poignancy.  I watched as a small group of entered the gallery, first walking through Pettigrew’s lush blooms and then lingering over a particular Baker-Barrow still life. I heard one woman say that it the cigar and bottle reminded her so much of her late father it was uncanny.  This is real magic of these still lifes, their elevation of everyday objects, their ability to conjur up powerful memories and make us feel connected in our experiences. 

The High Life, Judith Baker-Barrow

Cinda Womble Pettigrew also came to painting after years of expressing her creativity through interior design and writing. Just as her exploration of flora from various locales and seasons reflects her designer’s eye, her landscapes, including several created en plein air, reflect her traveler’s love of exploring new places and people. 

Dawn on Evergreen Lake and Down the Beach, Cinda Womble Pettigrew

It’s a remarkable thing to experience so much and such diverse terrain in one exhibit. Her en plein air work reflets the commitment to sitting in a place until you fully capture its essence. It also reflects a tenacity and willingness to go with flow, as anyone who has ever worked in this technique knows well. 

Mountain Peak at Sunset and The Hiker, Cinda Womble Pettigrew

Two of my personal favorites, which worked well as a pair, were Pettigrew’s “Mountain Peak at Sunset” and “The Hiker.” The contours of the hiker’s face appear hardened by the elements, but the set of her mouth and the knowing smile make us think it has been well worth it. I was so taken by the rendering of the sky in “Mountain Peak at Sunset” that I couldn’t resist a deeper dive into its detail.  

Detail of Mountain Peak at Sunset, Cinda Womble Pettigrew

And finally I found myself well outside my wheelhouse, stopped dead in my tracks by the lushness of Pettigrew’s roses. The fullness of their shapes, the cheerfully unpretentious choice to capture them at their peak, rather than hovering on possibility, or heading towards decline.

Roses, Cinda Womble Pettigrew

Coming to a new artistic pursuit later in life can be challenging. There is a learning curve. But there is also the powerful gift of time, of having lived, loved, experienced, and learned important things. There are the nuances creates by one’s previous passions and explorations at work to deepen the meaning, the range of subject, and the ability to talk directly to a viewer. I applaud Pettigrew and Baker-Barrows for taking this path and sharing the rich results. 

People come to see art for reasons as varied as the art they choose to see and the places they choose to see it in. Some art speaks to the mind, more than the heart. There is art that feels easy to live with and art that is so challenging or unsettling we are relieved to leave at the museum or gallery.  “An Analogy,” while containing many styles and subjects, is ultimately a show about art’s ability to create joy. And when I suggest that this is the kind of art you will want to live, I mean that with deep respect. These two artists paint with a vitality and full-on embrace of subject that reads pure passion. 

Gallery Opening: An Analogy
129 N Race St, Urbana
Showing throughout the month

Photos by Debra Domal 

Arts Editor

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