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Review: Make time for 'Timeless'

Review: Make time for 'Timeless'

Review: Make time for 'Timeless'

This piece, "Crucified Sun," is on di...

Lamar Dodd spent a lifetime in the arts, a prolific painter for most of his 90 years.  More impressive yet, he seems to have been reborn again and again through the years, creating in new styles, seeing the world through new eyes — and revealing it to us all.

The 19 pieces in “Lamar Dodd: Timeless,” the exhibit at the Averitt Center for the Arts through Saturday, at first appear to be the work of four or five different artists. There’s the somber simplicity of the Ashcan School, Picasso-esque cubism, abstract expressionism, and ultra-contemporary landscapes. One man — one extraordinary man — created them all.

Perhaps Dodd’s eclectic vision came from his decades of leading the faculty of the University of Georgia’s school of art, considered one of the most comprehensive in the country. More likely, it’s his insatiable pursuit of discovery that drove the growth of that art school, which now bears his name.

Let’s take a stroll along Dodd’s “Timeless” timeline. In just a few brushstrokes, “Woman Holding Umbrella,” a 1928 watercolor, drops us into a muggy August afternoon, sharing the meager shade of a tired woman’s umbrella. It’s a familiar Southern scene, certainly one snatched from Dodd’s everyday life.

A few steps — and years — away we enter two different New York scenes and moods.  A watercolor sweep of elevated train track careens like a roller coaster, high above pastel skyscrapers in “Manhattan.” By contrast, “Bedroom Moonlight,” painted 10 years later, peeks in on a melancholy dreamer, shadowed in loneliness. It’s the kind of place where Edward Hopper would have felt at home.

In the 1960s, Dodd was invited by NASA to capture the explorer’s spirit of space exploration in massive canvasses. “Dawn of Another World” is an explosion of gold radiating from a single point on an azure horizon. Thick and textured layers of oil paint, applied in bold strokes with a palette knife, convey the urgent vitality of creation.

When Dodd’s wife underwent heart surgery in the late 1970s, he was permitted to sketch as the
physicians worked. Perhaps as a nod to the strict conventions of medicine, Dodd turned to the cubism’s sharp planes and angles for “The Heart.” At first glance, it seems to be an abstract in shards of blue. Upon closer look, the shards merge into surgeons, nurses, masks and monitors — almost an homage in stained glass.

In between, you find an expressionist view of Venice, a seascape reminiscent of the moodiest Winslow Homer, and an abstract worthy of Jackson Pollock.

The last piece may be the most revealing. A self-portrait in oils. His hand on his cheek, Dodd gazes out at the viewer, but the look in his eyes is far away. I suspect he’s pondering what to try next. I think he always was.

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