Past and present collide in 'Foreshadows'

Whether you've seen the great cityscapes of Chicago, New York City or San Francisco in person, or if they're new entities to you, rest assured that you have never seen them through Laura Atchinson's paintbrush. Her exhibit ""Foreshadows"" is currently on display in the Kachina Lounge and Gallery, upstairs in the Student Union Memorial Center, and these three cityscapes jump out at you as you enter the gallery.

These cityscapes are giant oil paintings on wood panels that reveal the normal structures of these cities in shades of gray. Every spare inch is covered with designs that look like graffiti. When you look closer you can see people's roughly rendered faces in the designs.

""With the city landscapes, there are six shades on the grayscale and each one is based off a certain time period of history,"" Atchinson said. ""You can see the images individually when you come up close to it but when you stand away you just see the city.""

The filth and soot of America seem to ooze off the grayscale of these paintings and they give off a definite air of busyness.

""My work is a reminder that every moment is building on many layers of history, both geographically and in a human context,"" Atchinson said.

""Foreshadows"" is Atchinson's first solo exhibition. After graduating from the UA in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in studio art, painting and drawing, she is currently working at the Phoenix Art Museum and applying to graduate schools. Her education at the university prepared her for working in her own studio and becoming a professional artist.

""Reflections of Yesterday"" is a graphite-on-paper piece of a girl conservatively dressed in a smothering dress. Her attire is reminiscent of the outfits worn by the Mormon women who were evicted from their Texas compound.

She is walking across a dump but the garbage is the remnants of our crumbled society. She steps over wrinkled papers and neighborhoods that are the size of miniature doll-house play-sets, exploring her surroundings.

""The way how our past continues to influence who we are today is something that really interests me,"" said Atchinson.

Inspired by her studies in history and classical archeological research, Atchinson likes to contrast abstract forms with forms that we are used to seeing in our urban landscape. A major theme in Atchinson's work is the dichotomy of big and small.

On the one hand her work features skyscrapers but the tiny details that cover them are the most important aspects of the piece. A little girl is gigantic in comparison to her surroundings, but she is young and the remnants of society are below her.

""Foreshadows"" seems to be a look into the not-too-distant future. A dystopia where everything is graffitied, societies have collapsed and gray hangs in the air like a permanent fog. Atchinson's work forces the viewer to rethink where our culture is going and what implications this road leads to.

""Making home amongst the past"" is a square stretched canvas that looms a good 6 inches off the wall, making the layered mountain landscape seem all the more real and present. The layers are covered with hieroglyphic-type designs and symbols that disrupt the otherwise tranquil scene.

""Momentary"" is another oil-on-wood piece where two hikers stare at a serene mountain landscape with a waterfall. Unfortunately, the waterfall is tainted by society in the form of Atchinson's signature squiggles and renderings of automobiles and little square houses. The piece is based on the fact that Atchinson's family is from Scotland and is now living in America.

""I do a lot of research for my work,"" said Atchinson. ""I research images and history and try to reach into the past.""

""Foreshadows"" by Laura Atchinson will be in the Kachina Gallery until June 20. The lounge and gallery is open Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.


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