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Atlanta Journal Constitution reviews “A Small Rustle” by Ashley L. Schick

Atlanta Journal Constitution | “Animal kingdom under threat in emerging artist’s work”

Ashley L. Schick uses paper collages to give scenes edge | by Felicia Feaster for the AJC

The exhibitions at Kai Lin Art tend to feature an often dizzying array of artists at various junctures in their careers: established, longtime Atlanta artists, emerging newcomers, and other artists whose punchy colors and eye-catching flash just seem to seduce the roving eye of resident owner and curator Yu-Kai Lin.

Lull Them Asleep hand-cut paper and adhesive 31 x 20.75 inches ASC 048G

Ashley L. Schick’s delicate watercolors and collages are the most interesting and complex work in the mix of solo shows currently on view at the Westside gallery also featuring Carl Linstrum and Nathaniel Galka.

Schick has shown her cut-paper collages – often focused on barnyard animals – previously at Kai Lin Art.  But her range and subject matter have thankfully enlarged with time.  Her work layers bits of meticulously cut, brightly hued paper in an interesting, almost quaint technique that the artist uses to create the roosters, dogs, water towers and chickens that suggested an Eric Carle story-book-style for a new age.

The unique device of using crafty cut-paper remains in her solo show “A Small Rustle.”  But in this incarnation, Schick is expanding her lexicon and agenda.  In a combination of cut-paper collage and also watercolors, Schick takes the seemingly innocuous, gentle figure of deer and fawns and gives them a perilous edge.  Beneath the veneer of pretty pastels and sherbert colors and her delicate use of paper and watercolor, various dangers lurk.  Look closely at her cutouts and watercolors and you’ll see eviscerated, decapitated and otherwise threatened deer, often most endangered by their proximity to the human world.

Nature is cruel, but civilization is crueler, Schick’s images suggest.

The Rushes Lean Over hand-cut paper and adhesive 18.25 x 8.25 inches ASC 058G

Whereas Schick’s previous works tend to use a more realistic color palette and charming background details to enhance that reality effect, in “A Small Rustle,” Schick has re imagined her color choices.  Using juicy, girlish colors of mango orange and hot pink in works like “Lull Them Asleep,” Schick layers hand-cut paper into a portrait of a deer lying unnaturally on its side, eyes open, and set against a plain white backdrop.

Schick spotlights her creatures against such austere backgrounds, the better to highlight their intense hues and a sense  – pervasive in the work – of isolation and threat.  Her animals tend to skulk through barren landscapes or navigate colorless worlds where their prominence and centrality for Schick are emphasized in that juxtaposition of lively color and bland backdrop.

For These Crooked Brains watercolor 7 x 5.125 inches ASC 066G

Even her soft, fragile watercolors, in Schick’s deft hand, carry a frisson of something unpleasant.  The small 7-by-5 inch watercolor “For These Crooked Brains” features the figure of cowering fawn with the dusting of white spots that reveals its age.  But something in the animal’s hunched, tremulous gesture indicates injury or threat.

In “Presumably,” the elongated torso and legs of a deer extend across the paper, but the animals’s head is tellingly off-screen, creating a subtle air of violence more clearly conveyed in other works such as “Staggering.”  “Staggering” features a wash of pink color and an eruption of graphic, harsh pink lines sprouting from a deer’s midsection to suggest that the pictured animal has been gravely injured.

In “The Rushes Lean Over,” a similar air of distress pervades the work centered on another of Schick’s vividly colored deer, this time juxtaposed against white paper cut-outs of a factory lurking in the background.  The presence of that totem of human incursion and industry casts a pall, indicating a potentially dangerous collision of the human-made and the animal world.

The Rushes Lean Over hand-cut paper and adhesive 18.25 x 8.25 inches ASC 058G

“A Small Rustle” is a welcome instance of watching an artist developing her work, and moving beyond novel technique to embrace more robust and interesting themes and ideas.

ART REVIEW “A Small Rustle” by Ashley L. Schick

Through July 25, Noon-6 p.m. Wednesdays – Fridays; noon-5 p.m. Saturdays.

Bottom Line: Surprising menace lies beneath the pretty colors and delicate technique in this solo show.