The Naturalness of Strange Things, exhibiting the works of local artists Abbey Messmer and Bill Dambrova, fittingly describes the two artists’ works represented. They are both so different, but strangely enough, the two styles flow naturally and organically together. Although the two artists’ styles are of striking contrast, Messmer’s work being monochromatic and Dambrova’s work exhibiting bright pops of color, the bodies of work on display compliment each other in a way that shines a different light onto each individual piece. The extreme visual contrast allows the viewer to pause and more carefully examine the surreal and curious content in each painting.
Abbey Messmer’s paintings have a haunting, otherworldly aura to them, each piece like a window into a fading memory. She chose to paint this new body of work in a monochromatic palette because of the nostalgic and dreamy emotion it invokes. Using digitally altered vintage photos as reference, she constructs recognizable yet unfamiliar scenes of people relaxing by the poolside or of a child riding his or her tricycle. However, common these scenes may seem at first, they are skewed by the absence of decipherable identities. The figures in her work often have their faces painted out, as if the details of these memories are unreachable to us. Other information is left ambiguous as well. It seems as if the more you exam Messmer’s paintings, the more mystery unfolds. These paintings are both inviting and alluring, as we are offered a glimpse into a fragmented memory. She leaves you wanting more, just like a real dream or memory often does. References to surrealism and the subconscious can be seen her work, which, with the exception of two pieces, were all created new for this exhibition.
The exhibition moves between the hazy, quiet, and beautifully surreal scenes of Abbey Messmer’s paintings to the equally surreal, but heavily more abstracted, vivid colors of the work of Bill Dambrova. His work often draws stimulation from natural science and biological forms, pushing and pulling this imagery until they are abstracted into new life. His process heavily involves “generation and decay,” as he builds up his surfaces and takes elements away, as if he is molding the surface, allowing the imagery to grow and take on form. Dambrova explains, “I look deeply into the shapes for images that need to be “born” or pulled out from the chaos.” This perfectly describes his piece She Asked Me My Name and I Gave Her My SSN; That’s How They Got My Spleen which absolutely possesses the viewer as soon as it is in sight. This monumental painting is full of vividly colored organs and organic forms, but contains visual rest in the beautiful chaos with simple, flat shapes that live on the surface of the paintings. This contrast both draws you into the plane and pulls you back out, extracting you subconscious. These eye-catching shapes can be seen again in Dambrova’s mesmerizing wall reliefs. Unframed and unbound, these new works leap from the wall, and even the surface of the painting. Works like For Lack of Light contain elements of collage and organic shapes that are impossibly layered until they jump right off the surface, escaping the compositional frame. Even the brush strokes are now large, solid, sculptural lines that are constructed inches above the surface.
Interestingly enough, although Dambrova’s and Messmer’s work seems to come from different worlds, their artwork pulls inspiration from similar things like mutated forms, multiverses, and mysterious places. Having studios close to one another, and creating all new works for The Naturalness of Strange Things at the same time, they were able to create a compelling visual dialogue through sharing input and perhaps subconscious collaboration and influence. Having this simultaneous working process can be seen as a strong motivator after looking at Dambrova and Messmer’s past work. Both of their styles stay true to previous work, but have been pushed and expanded into a new dimension, with Messmer’s work drifting into an ethereal dream dimension and Dambrova’s wall reliefs escalating into a new physical dimension. A lot can be gained through creative conversation and shared discourse, and this exhibition is a testament to that. The Naturalness of Strange Things is a unique exhibition guiding you through incredible color and surreal imagery of dream worlds and dimensions on new planes. The new work of Bill Dambrova and Abbey Messmer is not something that you want to miss.