Studio Proof: New, compelling series from Linda Gall

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

For her first solo exhibit in five years, Ohio-native Linda Gall found inspiration in scenery thousands of miles away in New Mexico (where she currently resides). The Southwestern rural landscapes, and the many dilapidated historical structures that occupy them, became the focus of the striking "Old Wood & Ancient Haunts," currently on view at Hammond Harkins Gallery in Bexley (2264 E. Main St.) through July 24.

Gall moved to New Mexico a half-decade ago to focus solely on painting, and the result offers a perceptibly fresh approach, despite containing a number of elements those familiar with Gall's work will recognize.

You'll still find those diminutive, eccentric figurines sneaking around the periphery, and there are ample examples of Gall's discerning technique with acrylics and watercolors. (By the way, Gall's watercolors here are particularly exceptional, and best viewed from a few feet away to take in the whole painting's subtle color blends that bring out the impeccably depicted wood elements.)

But there's an originality - an idiosyncratic balance between tender consideration and jubilance -that's captivating. Gall's paintings often ask the viewer to visualize a narrative within each piece, and the series as a whole. It is here I became both enamored and mystified by "Old Wood & Ancient Haunts."

Gall's juxtaposition of the figurines, ranging from cherub-like cowboys to colorful troubadours and even a charming dancer - and her ethereal specter - against the backdrop of crumbling barns and homes is a complex and intriguing one. There's a sense of sadness for these buildings' decay, but the figurines' playfully adjacent positioning add a sense of kitsch to this notion of longing for a bygone era.

The cerulean wash on the roof of the slowly surrendering barn in "Abandoned Barn" presents this sense of boundless ether where anything is possible - even within a setting where the motif is purely disrepair. Is there a future for these buildings? Most likely, but in the form of memories and renderings instead of physical existence.