‘Duende’ is Still a Mystery

By Sean Sanbeg

Works on display at the Madelon Powers Gallery by Susan Bradford. Photo by Megan Carpenter

In a small but never crowded room of the Fine and Performing Arts Center, the artists of Duende showcased their work. While these artists might have “tapped into [the] mystery” of duende, the viewers were left behind to trudge through the barrage of swirling colors and layered twigs. However, some pieces were more easily viewed than others. While these pieces of art may be respectable to the right audience, those without the gift of sight for such works might have left with a moderate headache.

The first works displayed in Duende were the work of Jan Selving. Selving displayed several paintings that were “abstract but reflect landscapes.”

After several minutes of serious contemplation, one could deduce that her painting titled “Elegy: Hidden Spring” was some sort of field with water and possibly a mountain in the background. Unfortunately, only the gifted were able to see more than this from her artwork. Susan Lange, whose work is “reflective of natural processes and affected by seasonal change,” had a similar effect on viewers. Her piece titled “Crane and Serpent” was constructed with handmade paper and decorative twigs. While this looked interesting in a confusing way, there wasn’t much else to her artwork.

Susan Bradford wasn’t helped by the organization of the paintings. Aside from her one piece titled “For All Things,” viewers didn’t get to taste her share of the confusion until the very end. By this point, the inexperienced viewer might have been at wits’ end. However, her piece titled “Long Enough,” a painting of a sunflower, proved to be both interesting and easy to view. The large sunflower created almost a three dimensional effect. The most crazed art-goer might have been enticed to lean in and smell the flower because of how the center loomed out at the viewer.

Andrea Levergood, who, according to her provided bio, has “a particular fondness for organic form, with elegance of imperfection, and systems of structure and repetition,” was the owner of the seeming grand prize of Duende. Levergood’s piece, titled “Bird Calls,” headlined the gauntlet with a $2,000 price tag. If any viewers find themselves questioning this price, it’s worth it (if you’re into this sort of thing).

There simply wasn’t enough time to play “I Spy” to find all the little pictures and the overall hidden meaning. This large collage was the most interesting piece in the gallery frankly because of its moth-to-the-flame appeal. Its vibrant colors and vertical line structure made for a very engaging puzzle for the viewer’s eyes.

In fact, Levergood had the most engaging artwork in the gallery. “12 Trees” was an easy piece for even the most inexperienced viewer to take in because, simply, it was a painting of twelve trees. The viewer was able to gaze at the painting, rather than stare at it glassy-eyed trying to figure out what it was. Through its intensity, the tree stationed center right served as a focal point around which the others seemed positioned. While this piece may be the most easily viewed, it was the second cheapest at only $150. This is a worthy price to any art viewer, if not only for the value for the price, but for the fact that it was an easy painting of comfort to those who felt lost in this room of color.

Duende showcased twenty-five pieces of art, most of which were abstract. The venue was well structured and easy going. However, aside from the occasional piece, anyone without a decent level of understanding for abstract art may have left in a state of confusion.