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Donna Dodson: The Chinese Zodiac Series & William Kendall paintings at Colo Colo Gallery

By John Paul Stapleton

New Bedford, MA – Donna Dodson’s contemporary and characterizing interpretation of the Chinese Zodiac is currently on view at Colo Colo Gallery.
“The Chinese Zodiac Series” was installed in collaboration between Dodson and Colo Colo owner and curator Luis Villanueva. While this is her solo exhibition, Villanueva has also installed a series of abstracts by William Kendall that coexist with her sculptures.
“My work has a level of abstraction,” Dodson said. “So I like being paired with an abstract painter.”
Upon entering the space, one will find that all 12 of her Zodiac sculptures are arranged in a circle facing inwards on tall white bases, bringing them to an easily observable level. On the walls behind all of the sculptures are Kendall’s abstract paintings that compliment the wooden sculptures with their earthy color palette.
Dodson said that in installing her pieces with Villanueva, he had the idea of a spiral but she wanted them arranged in a circle because the Zodiac doesn’t have a beginning or an end. This ends up working in her favor with the distance the sculptures get from the walls and the paintings.
“I like when people can walk around my sculptures,” Dodson said. “Each sculpture also gets a painting backdrop.”
“Mama Warthog” is an example of how well her sculptures fit into this installation. The greens and beiges in the paintings behind her compliment the color of the walnut wood. The black stripe running up the side of the sculpture also holds similarity to those in Kendall’s paintings that he created by painting over then peeling off tape on an originally black base coat.  Being able to circle the piece shows off the soft droplet-shaped tusks that communicate the sincerity of an animal that is normally pictured to be aggressive.
Another piece that sticks out well in this installation is the 12” tall mahogany sculpture, “Blissful Monkey.” The meditatively posed monkey communicates the intelligent and wise nature that is associated with the zodiac while his rounded edges bring out the liveliness also attached to the sign.
Dodson also incorporates paints and washes in some of her sculptures such as “Dragon Girl.” The beige color of the maple wood is interrupted by a green wash in the spines on the figure’s back, circles on the sides of her head, and the underneath of her mouth. These colors match the palette used in many of Kendall’s paintings but the wash also brings attention to the more imaginative features of the fantasy creature.
All 12 of the sculptures share Dodson’s style of representing the animals as humanoid and feminine as can be told by the breasts on each figure. Despite having so much in common, each sculpture takes on its own personality, reminiscent of the attributes that come along with each other Zodiac symbols. Dodson also gives herself a chance to explore within her style by use of her opaque paints that give the illusion of non-wooden added pieces and in her washes such as the pattern she printed on “Hyena Woman.”
The rounded edges and amorphous shapes that go into Dodson’s sculptures help to abstract the figures. Standing at the center of the exhibit gives the opportunity to see all of her pieces but it also gives a chance to look beyond to the paintings as the shapes and the focus get even less concrete.
Dodson’s series is worth seeing in person if not just to see these sculptures for your own eyes but also to experience them in this installation.
(“Donna Dodson: The Chinese Zodiac Series” and William Kendall’s paintings remain on exhibit through August 2 at the Colo Colo Gallery, 101 West Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, Mass. For more information, call (617) 642-6026.)