Ellen Tanner’s first solo exhibition at Moody Gallery is a series of incredibly skilled oil on panel paintings that each tell one of Aesop’s Fables. (Only a couple of works depart from the literal stories.) Every detail is given a microscopic focus that turn passages of the paintings into small worlds or vignettes unto themselves. I got lost looking at some of the details outside of the focal point of the action: a patch of mushrooms, a rat eating meat from a beef grinder, and a cornucopia of a lion’s kill. The fables are dark with themes of death (animals eating other animals) and deal with the pitfalls of trust and the brutality of self-interest and power.
Much less illustrative and with more idiosyncratic/hermetic narratives, the exhibition at The Brandon brings together a fascinating look at the “Lizard Cult” of Lee Baxter Davis, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Robyn O’Neil, Georganne Deen and Gary Panter. Baxter taught at East Texas State University where he had as students Hancock (’97), O’Neil (’97), Deen (’77), and Panter (’74). The beauty of the show is seeing each artist’s distinctly unique voice with affinities in approach (narrative driven work to create dark, moody personal allegories) and technique (painting/printing/drawing that relies heavily on the basics of technically skilled draftsmanship). This is definitely not student work looking like watered down versions of the teacher’s.