Third Street Gallery archive: 2003 Exhibitions: Welcome to Glamour Wood - Cautionary Visual Tales by Julie McNiel

Humboldt State University First Street Gallery is pleased to announce Glamour Wood: Paintings and Works on Paper by Julie McNiel. Produced and curated by the students in the Museum and Gallery Practices Program at Humboldt State University, the exhibition will run August 26th through September 21st.

McNiel's multi-layered paintings draw the viewer into McNiel's private world; a mix of fantasy and cross-cultural mythology. Issues such as femininity, the environment, and cultural identity are revealed in her recent series of mythically inspired paintings. Media such as wax, enamel, glitter, acrylics, spray paint and graphite are applied on mylar, paper and wood panels to create layers of images and meanings. Biomorphic figures interact with the forces of nature in narratives that according to McNiel, "explore the varied features of dream, desire, and loss, in human relationships, to the self, to others, and to the land."

In her exhibition essay, Lydia Nakashima Degarrod, a visual artist and cultural anthropologist describes McNiel's Glamour Wood as, "a collection of cautionary visual tales about the dangers and deceptions that prey on the innocent and vulnerable. Julie McNiel presents us with an imaginary visual world, which was initially influenced by her fascination as a child with the worlds, represented in illustrated fairytales, science-fiction novels, and comics, and later shaped by the different mythologies and oral lore she encountered in her numerous trips throughout Asia and Europe. Julie McNiel has created this imaginary visual world as a site for exploring and commenting on issues of nature and humanity. This world is characterized by an absence of the ordering boundaries between the dichotomies of nature and humanity, and between creation and destruction. She is warning us that without these ordering dichotomies, those who are vulnerable and innocent are bound to be deceived by the sugar-coated seduction of Glamour Wood."

Her paintings depict female figures, whom she describes as "mixed-blood super-heroines" with special powers, such as the bird-like ability for navigate through the air over vast expanses of terrain. In McNiel's title piece, Glamour Wood, two characters are exposed to threats, natural and man-made, within an environment inspired by Northern California's majestic landscape. McNiel's fantasy world, which lies beneath the canopy of the redwood forest, is imbued with images of root systems, veins, electromagnetic fields and dripping water-blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.

In her piece, The Underground Palace, McNiel furthers her exploration of cultural traditions through Chinese folklore. The narrative within the painting is inspired by the custom of creating shrines for the recently deceased to insure their passage to the afterlife. She finds universality in this practice that she believes transcends the Chinese culture. The ghostlike figure in this painting, uses a quill to regenerate herself and is yet another character in a cast of fantastical beings that allow McNiel's art to address polarities between ethnicities, genders, and religions.

A Bay Area native, McNiel has traveled across the U.S., Asia and Europe, and performed with interdisciplinary arts troupes such as The Three-Legged Puppet Troupe, Vent, and Aqua. She received a two-year California Graduate Fellowship for study at the San Francisco Art Institute, and graduated there with a M.F.A. degree in painting in 1999. Julie McNiel currently teaches drawing and painting at the College of the Redwoods.

First Street Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. It is located at 422 First Street, Eureka, California. Admission is always free. School groups are encouraged to call ahead for tours. For more information, please call 707.443.6363. A public reception for the artist will be held during Eureka Main Street's Arts Alive! on Saturday, September 6th from 6 to 9 p.m.