But Canadian artist Kim Ouellette manages to make cuddly conceptual work. And she does it by using a distinctly warm and fuzzy medium that seems perfectly suited to her regional roots. If Southern artists seem obsessed with a patina of age and history expressed through vintage photos, worn linen and cottons, then Ouellette's material suggests she is equally drawn to the physical reality of the frigid climes of her native Winnipeg.
Ouellette (who now lives in Atlanta) crafts her artworks from vintage wool blankets in pleasing colors of seafoam and kelly greens, rich golden yellows and lipstick pinks. Onto these cozy backdrops she stitches both abstract and representational scenes of mountain ranges, clouds and trees created in cursory gestures. The stitches often dangle in wisps from the surface like the fuzzy dander given off by the blankets themselves. One pull of the thread and a piece of the landscape could uncoil.
Ouellette often uses the fat stripes that constitute the blankets' designs as horizon lines or the ground from which her trees sprout. In her humble little landscapes, she conveys an ethereal kind of joshing that brings to mind the similarly nutty faux-naivete of fellow Winnepegian filmmaker Guy Maddin. In her "backward" landscapes, for instance, Ouellette offers her usual mountains and trees, but shown from the raw perspective of the back of the blanket, where the more chaotic and jumbled stitch marks lurk.
In an oddball signature tic, Ouellette is drawn time and again to a visual non sequitur -- a black spot -- that inexplicably appears on her landscapes, like the surreal green apple that floats in Magritte's paintings.
Ouellette's mysterious "spots" are densely packed masses of black thread that define the landscape both in their presence, as in "Prairie with Spot," and in their absence, as in "Spotless Landscape."
Ouellette's equally offbeat abstractions feature storms of broken, swirling, vortical black thread, as in "Broken Pieces." In these works, Ouellette answers wildly gesticulating Pollock-style abstraction with her own humble, quirky simplicity. Replete with a wide-eyed charm, Ouellette's Blanket Works bring a welcome dose of oddity to the elegant new Marcia Wood Gallery location in Castleberry Hill.
Blanket Works runs through Feb. 28 at Marcia Wood Gallery, 263 Walker St. Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-827-0030. www.marciawoodgallery.com.
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