“Balance and Escape” Pairs Shimmering Poolscapes with Portraits of the Natural World

May 18, 2016 2:31AM

You don’t have to think hard to figure out which is which in “Balance and Escape,” a dual exhibition featuring tranquil scenes from the natural world next to dreamy underwater portraits. Or do you?

At Sirona Fine Art in Hallandale Beach, Florida, it would seem that “escape” applies to Samantha French’s fantastical poolscapes, nostalgic technicolor paintings that call to mind photographs taken with an underwater camera. Some show her subjects taking the plunge, as in Fall In. In others, figures swim through the turquoise or float on the shimmering surface. We see close-ups of faces, their eyes closed against the bright sunshine and chlorine, dark hair swirling, bubbles blowing out of nostrils. There’s joy and freedom here.

French has said the works were inspired by the lazy days of her own childhood summers in northern Minnesota. They don’t just represent an escape from the heat or a temporary escape to a quiet underwater world, but an escape to the past.

But look again: There’s balance, too, in Lagoon Verde; topside and Twist, Let Go. And isn’t there balance between sunlight and shade, hot and cold, air and water?

The same, or the reverse, could be said of “Balance,” the complementary series of works by Jessica Pisano. Her serene paintings focus on familiar elements from the natural world—a hummingbird, a tree, the sea—inspired by her youth in Martha’s Vineyard. By isolating her subjects against simple but luminous backgrounds, she captures and emphasizes their beauty.

There’s balance, of course, in her captivating aviary portraits, in the near-perfect symmetry of the bird’s wings in Hummingbirds II or the coiled tree of Cerulean Sky I. But isn’t there escape, too, in Whisper, as a bird takes flight for somewhere else, or in Now and Then, as a solitary tree offers shade and solitude for a wanderer deep in thought?

—Bridget Gleeson

Balance and Escape” is on view at Sirona Fine Art, Hallandale Beach, Florida, Apr. 1–Jun. 2, 2016.

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