Two off-Island artists return to Belushi Pisano Gallery

Duy Huynh
"Never Mind the Clouds," an acrylic painting by Duy Huynh. Photos courtesy of Belushi Pisano Gallery

By Brooks Robard - August 16, 2007

Vietnamese painter Duy Huynh joins Graceann Warn for a dual show currently at Vineyard Haven's Belushi Pisano Gallery. Although each works in a different medium, the two complement each other stylistically.

Mr. Huynh is based in Charlotte, N.C., Ms. Warn in Ann Arbor, Mich., and both exhibited at Belushi Pisano last year. Gallery director Jessica Pisano, an artist who combines photography and painting, met Mr. Huynh and Ms. Warn while living in Chicago and working on an advanced degree in arts administration at the Chicago Art Institute.

Mr. Huynh's whimsical acrylic paintings of women and men evoke a dream-like quality reminiscent of English illustrator Arthur Rackham. In his artist's statement, Mr. Huynh talks about the sense of displacement he felt as an immigrant who at the age of five settled in California with his family. He found refuge in the art of comics, cartoons and graffiti, although the urban grittiness of those media does not show up in his ethereal work.

The 12 Huynh paintings on exhibit, all in acrylic on wood, employ a somber palette of earthen colors. The artist's figures often float in the air, as in "Half Life Full Circle," where a somnolent young woman is suspended in space within a hoop. She wears flowered tights and a dark green tunic made of a mail-like material. The background for this fairy spirit consists of multi-colored squares.

Graceann Warn
Graceann Warn uses items such as postcards and receipts in a series on display at the Belushi Pisano Gallery.

The iconography of "A Free and Open Mind" takes on surrealist elements reminiscent of Salvador Dali, although Mr. Huynh employs a far more romantic perspective. The central focus of this painting is a man wearing an olive brown suit seated on a tree stump in an open landscape with trees or possibly towers on the horizon. The artist has opened the crown of the man's hat, allowing birds to fly out as if he had the mind of a magician.

In "Never Mind the Clouds," a couple embraces. They are standing in an up-ended umbrella that floats on a flooded landscape in front of a series of slender trees that have just begun to leaf out. The man holds a second umbrella over the two figures, and the imagery seems mysterious and evocative.

While the choices of colors and subject often make Mr. Huynh's work seem somber in mood, the backgrounds suggest revelation and a move toward brightness. In "Renewed Spirit," a woman in the yogic lotus position hovers in the air, suspended over a rose-colored lotus flower, with her black hair rising flame-like into a point. Dragonflies flutter nearby.

Particularity grounds the fantasy of "Homesick Traveler," where a man with an umbrella and large, white wings wears roller skates and carries a suitcase with straps. Each detail seems to resonate with significance. The same is the case in "The Recyclist," where the figure in the painting rides an old-fashioned, large-wheeled bicycle. In "Her Own Little World" a young woman in a gold and brown striped ball gown holds the string to a bright blue globe, while hot air balloons float in the background.

Unlike Mr. Huynh, Ms. Warn makes assemblages and works in encaustic, an ancient method that combines melted beeswax with pigments and resin to create a hard, glossy surface. Drawing for inspiration from the world of objects and minutia, her work exhibits a particularity like Mr. Hyunh's, although her perspective has a more scientific bent.

"Chalkboard Cypher" incorporates a series of black and white squares covered with formulas on the left next to a mix of black irregular circles set on a blue background covered with thin scratches. In "Five Ninths," the artist has built an assemblage of cubbyholes for five planet-like balls made of paper strips, leaving four more cavities empty. Alongside them, she has placed ledger sheets filled with strange notations under a chalk overlay.

In "Plumbing the Depths," Ms. Warn has hung a rusted metal ring on a wire next to three dark aquamarine bow shapes. Several of her assemblages include monocles or lenses. "El Paradiso," a bright green work, includes one meant to magnify or at least call attention to the small birds in a cavity behind it. "Siena" consists of a wooden box with a monocle, classical figures and a small manila envelope behind glass.

Another Warn series -- "One Inch Equals," "Touring Club Italiano," and "Roma" -- incorporates postcards, tags, monocles, numbers, pages, receipts and maps, as if the artist has gathered up and memorialized a cluttered past. Like Mr. Huynh's paintings, these assemblages evoke an indecipherable symbolism, but because they are constructed, they retain a stronger sense of the concrete world that we all inhabit.

Mr. Huynh's paintings and Ms. Warn's mixed-media encaustics will remain on exhibit through August 23.

The Belushi Pisano gallery is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. It is located on the corner of State Road and Main Street in Vineyard Haven. For more information, call 508-696-8988, or visit