Painter Displays Her Experimentation

By Christopher A. Yates for the Columbus Dispatch (Sunday, April 13, 2003)

The perception of and reflection about location drives the work of Laura Bidwa.

Her concept of location refers to physical locale and artistic and conceptual development. In her new series at the Ohio Art League, Bidwa refers to the work as “tests,” implying that she is searching for and expanding her painting vocabulary.

The show consists of four booklike pieces and nine small panel paintings.

Aesthetically, the panels resemble pages from a larger book and evoke the feeling that a hidden narrative is at play. Each piece is simple in construction yet filled with cryptic meaning. Bidwa supplies elaborate titles that suggest memories from seemingly unimportant moments during the artist’s day.

Test 11 (I’m Dressed in Shiny Gold) is dominated by an organic form resembling a tree or bush. Using three colors, Bidwa sets up a contrived, almost theatric, space using black and red. Linear strokes of warm gray on black define the shape.

Each painting curiously balances a minimal, geometric abstraction with an organic, fluid drawing. While the geometric structures become a stage or background, the drawings resemble actual objects or scenes taken from life.

Some scenes are panoramic, as if derived from landscape. In What I Found, a hinged, freestanding book form with a red exterior and a blue interior serves as a context for a dynamic painting. Moving across both panels, a series of green, plantlike shapes covered with a layer of scumbled white creates a horizon line. The image is enigmatic yet compelling.

A similar effect occurs in the painting I Took a Bus. Another of Bidwa’s book pieces, the structure has a yellow-green exterior and a black interior. Dull blue-green lines on black suggest trees viewed from the window of a moving vehicle.

Though Bidwa’s booklike works appear more resolved than her panel pieces, they suffer the same dilemna: The ground (in the case of the panels) and the object (in the case of the book) often appear disconnected from the painting. Though this relationship creates drama, it also seems formulaic and superficial.

Conceptually, these works are strong. As Bidwa travels through a period of self-imposed “tests,” her evolving works will be exciting to watch.