JULIA ZANES EMBRACES CONTRADICTIONS
There is a magical realm of flora, fauna, celestial bodies and mystical beings at the Dianich Gallery in Brattleboro through January, brought to you by sorcerer and painter Julia Zanes, whose show, “The Blue Prophetic Alphabet,” consists of 52 (as in a deck of cards) paintings on plastered board mounted to screen printing frames.
Do not think Picasso’s Blue Period or blue as in “the blues.” Zanes’ blue is light-emitting. She shared method: “If you use apure blue,” [my guess is its most often ultramarine here] “and surround it with more neutral colors, even though it is the darkest color in the visible spectrum, it glows.” She demonstrates this again and again in these remarkable paintings. There is to them almost an other-worldliness.
The artist told me she’d like to think her paintings are “about language.” In some ways, though, they are anything but … at least not language in the everyday sense. She cites Chinese as an example of the kind of alphabet she is thinking of. That is, elements of the alphabet are symbols, or pictograms, and when several are put together, the “collision of simple images” creates a new, possibly unforeseen, idea. Thus, the intention is that the collection of work shown is more than the sum of its parts. That may be the hope of most artists for their shows, but it is seldom undertaken with so much forethought. Nevertheless, each painting in “Blue Prophetic Alphabet” is compelling in its own right.
Zanes made a list of images she wanted to incorporate. They included visual puns, such as “Starling,” the first painting in the show. The bird’s feathers have shiny dots that seem to duplicate the surrounding stars. Trees double as a branching network of veins. Visual puns and wordplay abound, as in the concept of “medium” being at once a channeler of the spirit world, the role of the artist in creation, and the substance used in a work of