Art Review: Unity within diversity

Glendale News Press

The exhibition, "Three Artists, One World," at the Burbank Creative Arts Center Gallery, highlights three markedly different artists in style and media. The common characteristic that threads the three together is their passion for the world, human equality, animal rights and children's security.

The sculpture, painting and mixed media of Toni Scott commemorates the journey of "ceiling shattering" African Americans and honors their heritage with a clay bust of a Mangbetu woman.

Photographer Charlie Morey shares his emotional warmth for animals with images best described as intimate.

John Paul Thornton dominates the gallery with large-scale canvases that possess the viewer. Nearly life-size figurative subjects are engaged in religious ceremony. The collective 56 pieces are a hopeful reminder that unity can be found within diversity.

Scott is prolific, her skill set is varied, but her thesis is focused. The progress of African/African American/American society is honored with renditions of icons such as Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and John F. Kennedy, depicted in individual and group portraiture. "The Journey" is represented at both ends. A series of digital works implies an ongoing struggle, which is personified by a universal figure, a young African American woman, who is depicted in the presence of George Washington in one piece, and seated on the bus next to Rosa Parks in another.

"Doorway to History — Slavery to President," a digital portrait of Barack Obama, is composed of fractured pieces of photos coming together, resulting in a unified image of the president. The chard-like effect seems symbolic of Obama's success as the first African American president — his shattering of the ultimate glass ceiling.

Scott's most impressive piece is the life-size clay bust of a Mangbetu woman.

The execution of this piece is immaculate and soulful. Scott tackles challenging media and masters it, applying it to a creative range of subjects within her thesis.

The photography of Morey, by contrast to Scott, is classic. His eye for framing intimate insights of his subjects, zoo and domestic animals is acute.

His subject matter and composition are consistent. One exception to Morey's component of the exhibition is the black-and-white picture titled "Last Winter." It is in fashion with what is estimably Paul Strand's finest body of pictures, "Time in New England."

Strand was a pioneer in early 20th century photography and an advocate for photography as a fine art. The dilapidation in Morey's "Last Winter" is both harsh and beautiful. A collapsing wooden shed provides black shadows, which becomes strong contrast to the striking luminosity that shines through the cracks. The result is an array of gray angles. These shapes hint at a previous purpose for the shed. Morey saw something wonderful when he framed this picture. There is great depth there.

I would like to speculate that Morey's animal portraits fall into a category of "duty," while "Last Winter" is psychologically enticing. Strand and Morey also share an emphasis on the worth and dignity of all life, and support their ideal with their pictures.

Thornton's passion for supporting underprivileged children is suggested throughout his work. Upon entering the gallery, his large canvas titled "Las Angelitas" dominates the room, pulling the viewer like a magnet.

Nine young girls dressed in their white confirmation gowns illuminate the darkness with candles, enabling the religious procession.

The canvas is split from the center foreground as the two lines of "angels" recede to a blackened vanishing point. The composition is excellent as it draws the viewer into the scene.

The exhibition "Three Artists, One World" is deep in compassion. The talented threesome are all accomplished and acknowledged, as well they should be.

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