Wednesday, January 21, 2009

February Artist: A Matter of Perspective

A lifelong Madisonian, Dagny Quisling Myrah knows the ins and outs of the city, its neighborhoods urban, suburban and rural. But in her years as an oil painter, Myrah has come to find interesting angles and vantage points from which to depict her city.

In an exhibition at Grace Chosy Gallery February 6–28, her landscapes range from rural to urban to suburban. And while always vibrantly colorful, they offer new ways of looking at Madison, whether at night, from high up or through the absence of people.

Seeing an Edward Hopper exhibition in Chicago last year inspired Myrah to start painting night scenes. She drove around Madison discovering compositions and subjects she’d normally pass by without noticing.

One result of this experiment is a painting of a Monroe Street storefront. “Actually, what I was looking for was people at night,” Myrah says. But when she saw four mannequins lit up in the window looking as though they were ready for a night on the town, she knew she’d found her subject.

Other paintings—such as scenes showing a white house and the Bartell Theatre—came about after visiting a friend’s condo on the Capitol Square. “When night fell, the entire sidewalk below lit up with people,” she says. The high vantage point became a new way to depict architecture most commonly seen from street level.

Also in the exhibition at Grace Chosy are natural landscapes, such as a conservancy where Myrah likes to walk. And in a series of suburban scenes, her goal was to capture places where people had just been but no longer were, such as a chair in a yard where someone had just been sitting.

Such paintings made Myrah wonder where the people had gone and what had brought them to the spot on the first place. “It was fun,” she says. “It kind of made me want to be a short-story writer.”

Myrah hopes her paintings resonate with her fellow Madisonians. “I always hope I’ve picked a subject they’re familiar with and have enjoyed as much as I have,” she says. “I hope to give little snapshots of the city.”

Images are by Dagny Quisling Myrah and courtesy of Grace Chosy Gallery.

IN THE MAGAZINE: The February issue of Madison Magazine comes out tomorrow. Here’s some of the arts content you’ll find within the pages:
• A roundup of local radio DJs’ favorite love songs—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
• A column on a store carrying minimalist and beautiful children’s toys by associate/style editor Shayna Miller (and check out her Window Shopping blog)
• A profile on local jazz royalty Jan Wheaton.
• A poem by Mary Ellen Gabriel on the month of February.
• Our monthly Overtones section with picks on the can’t-miss performances, concerts and exhibitions taking place in February.

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