An exhibit of paintings by Barbara Schreiber

Barbara Schreiber, “Hide the Locusts,” 2012, acrylic on paper, 22" x 22"
Barbara Schreiber, “Hide the Locusts,” 2012, acrylic on paper, 22" x 22" ZAN MADDOX

Barbara Schreiber is a veteran artist and critic who has exhibited widely, with numerous one-person shows – including one at Atlanta’s High Museum – and whose work is in many distinguished public and private collections.

Her new show, “Based on a True Story,” opened Oct. 14 at the Ross Gallery at Central Piedmont Community College and will be up until Dec. 18.

Schreiber, who sometimes writes for The Observer, is a meticulous, poker-faced draftswoman. Her technique reminds one of illustrators of the Belle Epoque such as Winsor McCay (“Little Nemo”) or of the French comics illustrators of a few decades afterward, such as Herge (“Tintin”).

She uses this technique the way filmmaker David Lynch used the backdrop of small-town America for baroque crime in “Twin Peaks,” for dire contrast. As she says, “I do pretty paintings with scary subject matter.”

Schreiber’s earlier work was willfully small, beautifully composed and enigmatic. Some dealt with the distancing effects of travel, when one might stare from a train or airplane window during a layover to view a scene or locale unsure of what was happening, never to learn. Surrealism is traditionally created by juxtaposing unrelated objects – a sewing machine on a dissecting table is the classic example – but this was a surrealism of what might happen next.

This show demonstrates Schreiber deepening and widening her means. Her draftsmanship is now less stylized, even less willing to give the game away in some small flourish. At the same time, the paintings are larger, if no less fastidious than before, and explore a wider range of color. Some – such as “Hide the Locust” and “Malibu Bunnies” – might readily evolve into William Morris wallpaper if the locusts did not seem so rapacious, and the backs of the bunny rabbits weren’t on fire.

A note of doubt keeps these paintings from becoming sermons. Schreiber is honest enough as an artist to turn these doubts on herself. For all the foreboding overtones, the dominant quality is alertness, of recognizing the puzzle of existence before us. It makes her work paradoxically refreshing.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.

Want to go?

Ross Gallery is in the Overcash Building at the CPCC Central Campus, adjacent to Halton Theater; 1206 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-330-6211.

Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday and by appointment.