Local Arts

Based on a true story:An Exhibit of Paintings by Barbara Schreiber

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 on 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 is reminds one of illustrators of the Belle Epoque such as Winsor McCay (“Little Nemo”) or of the French comix illustrators of a few decades after, 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, beautiful composed, and enigmatic. Her paintings had the air of starting off as cartoons and ending up as interrupted stories, creating a field of possible meanings. 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.

The show at CPCC 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.

Animals appear in most of her paintings – glimpsed in suburban developments. The man-made world is an emergency waiting to happen, however, and these animal interlopers feel simultaneously like what is vanishing and what is yet to come.

A note of doubt keeps these paintings from becoming sermons.

Schreiber is honest enough an artist to turn these doubts on herself, as she does in the self-portrait In a rear view mirror, “Denial (my old self runs over my young self).” This is what we all do, eventually, chastened by experience and time.

For all the foreboding overtones in her paintings , the dominant quality of Schreiber’s work is alertness of recognizing the puzzle of existence before us. It makes her work paradoxically refreshing.

Want to go?

Ross Gallery is in the Overcash Building at the CPCC Central Campus, adjacent to Halton Theatre; 1206 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-330-6211; Free parking available in the Theater Parking/Faculty/Event lot behind the Overcash building on 4th Street.

Hours: 10-2 Monday-Thursday, and by appointment.