A! Magazine for the Arts

"Belle of the Ball" by Leila Cartier

"Belle of the Ball" by Leila Cartier

Review: 'Wide Eyed Garden' at WKRAC

March 24, 2009

"Wide Eyed Garden," an exhibition by Abingdon, Va. native Leila Cartier at William King Regional Arts Center (WKRAC), is not your typical museum experience.

Guests leave traditional gallery views behind as they step into an imaginary world complete with rose petals and a pink ceiling. Cartier's vibrant colors and intriguing subject matter leave the viewer yearning for more.

The space was designed by WKRAC curator Adam Justice, whose suspension techniques alone are enough to impress the average viewer. He goes beyond this through the placement of paintings around the edge of the room, allowing guests to wander as they please and also experience the exhibit as a whole. In addition, Cartier contributed her own ideas, including silver curtains created by her mother and a play list reminiscent of the days she spent at the museum.

The show features Cartier's early abstract works and more recent works with darker subject matter. She combines human, animal and arthropod forms, often in natural settings. When viewing the entire show, a sort of theatric nature emerges.

"The Queen (Shrimp Mantis)" and "Belle of the Ball," in particular, invoke a sense of energy and can't help but gain the attention of everyone in the room. The rich colors, the flat backgrounds, and the flowing nature of Cartier's brushstrokes contribute to the prominence of central figures.

"In Everlasting Peace" has a certain glow that invites the viewer closer. The soft texture found here and also in "A Song to Keep Us Warm" is enchanting. The canvas' texture is revealed through light paint layers that appear to be almost floating. The figure in "A Song" appears surreal and almost nostalgic, fading into memory.

Overall, the show offers a fresh take on the gallery setting, a unique perspective previously unseen at WKRAC. The energy and talent of both Cartier and Justice are extremely present, and I thoroughly believe that missing this exhibit would be a mistake.

-- Find out more about the exhibit and about Cartier.