Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zombies on the riverfront: Dara Engler painting exhibit @ Barnwell, Shreveport; meet the artist 2 to 4 pm Sun, Jan 17

Painter Dara Engler is one of the most provocative artists to be shown in Shreveport in some time. Her subjects, mostly women of an indeterminate age, are not conventionally handsome. Nor are they dashing or romantic figures. Part of the situation is their figure: bellies Not shaped by hours of exercise or by stellar genetic code are well apparent. They are nonetheless magnetic people.

While her awkward women - there a few men in this collection, too - dominate the canvasses, there is much detail to enjoy. There are cats, socks, panties, shoes, leggings, furniture, wallpapers of marvelous patterns, sensual rugs and so on.

In online observations by her peers she has been compared to Chaim Soutine, to Egon Schiele. When I saw the white skin and non-model-like poses of her subjects, I saw Engler's kinship to the august Lucien Freud.

She is young (M.F.A. Painting, Indiana University, 2007) to be so fluent with the figure. She has won awards. And she is currently teaching at the University of Louisiana Monroe.

What in the hell is the Barnwell doing by bringing the edgy Engler to Shreveport? Barnwell is struggling to expand its image and role.

Friends of Barnwell acting manager Michael Corbin is the zealot. An example: during Christmas season he brought a laser light show into the staid tropicalia of the domed botanic garden. He reported that tons of families and people of all kinds attended the series of shows. Not one of them, he notes, was decapitated by the lasers.

Corbin wants to continue to expand the role of the Barnwell in art and as a facility at the river's edge. Not an easy task. But a worthy quest.

For more info please contact Barnwell staff member Whitney Lary, 318.673.7703,

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