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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Two men discussed the dimensions in Esphyr Slobodkina's paintings on Tuesday afternoon. I saw a jumping fox in one of them.

The paintings in the "Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction" exhibit, which opened at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art June 16, inspires imaginative thinking and interpretation - each piece is an invitation to think outside the box to find its meaning.

Slobodkina - a Siberian-born, American abstract painter started her career as a children's book illustrator, making collage illustrations from colored paper.

The imagination unleashed in these projects continued through her career, and her paintings and sculptures remained collage-like.

Slobodkina's illustrative work, full of vivid color and whimsical patterns, lends itself perfectly to the creative fiction of children's books. Her continued use of color in later works is delightful as is her continued inspiration in collage-like work. Several pieces in her collection are composed of an eclectic assortment of materials such as postage stamps, newspaper sheets and fabric swatches, which layered onto a canvas, are in perfect agreement with each other.

There is a sort of cohesive theme in the exhibited works - something along the lines of future and travel. A part of the collection is arranged around the concept of a boat and its construction.

The construction pieces are all focused on similar simple lines, showing the framework of a boat - their distinctiveness is in the artist's capability of using unique brushstrokes and raw materials to create the feeling of differentiation.

The futuristic aspect of her work is apparent in the "Journey into the Future" piece and the related studies, which are also on display. The piece, inspired by a photo of men in a telescope, can be interpreted as a colorful depiction of what one might see in the future world or, more simply, a bright outlook on things to come.

The evolution of her sculpted works is also a sign of her innovative nature as they transition from wood and iron pieces in her early career to more complex metal pieces and the use of computer parts in her later career.

Slobodkina lived to be 94 years old, and her creativity and imagination never slowed down.

The pieces she created in the last years of her life, are just as vibrant and creative as those created in her illustrating days - revealing a woman who adapted well to the changing times and embraced the innovative spirit of the future.

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