Gallery Tripping: picturing the past | Calendar | Chicago Reader

Gallery Tripping: picturing the past 

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The central image in Dori Grace Lemeh's collage painting The Strength of a Woman shows a trio of African American women holding children. The figures are embellished by fragments of printed texts, a repeated pattern depicting rows of black slaves in chains, and painted strands of green and yellow hair splaying out extravagantly from the middle woman's head. Geometric designs and bird shapes were made by scraping away layers of paint. Numerous bits of fabric taken from clothing worn by Lemeh's recently deceased mother, who was an inspiration for this artwork, are affixed to the canvas.

On close inspection, the collage seems to be a reflection on the diverse, often contradictory influences that create an African American's identity. But when one steps back from the painting's surface, something extraordinary happens. The busy clutter of details suddenly seems calm, unified. Patches of blue paint become boundless sky; the contrasting fabric designs are a carefully sown garden; the mess of color near the top becomes a dramatic sunset.

Thirteen recent works by Dori Grace Lemeh are now on view at the gallery Black Art Group International, 1259 S. Wabash, through January 14. It's open Tuesdays through Saturdays noon to 6 PM. Call 427-7600 for more information.

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