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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

Art Review
Young artists show alternative visions

By Virginia Wageman
Advertiser Art Critic

Queen Emma Gallery, the Queen's Medical Center
• Through July 1
• 537-7167

Ellen Leo and Saba Daraee
• HawaiÎi Pacific University
• Through July 27
• 544-0287

Several accomplished young artists are exhibiting their works: Masako Nitz and Cade Roster in a show called "Zoo" at the Queen Emma Gallery, and Ellen Leo and Saba Daraee at Hawai'i Pacific University in Kane'ohe.

In "Zoo," Nitz and Roster present human activities as carried out by a bevy of animals — dogs, cats, chickens, mice, rabbits — and mythical creatures.

Clearly each of the artists has a narrative in mind for the scenes, stories we can guess at in works such as Roster's "Ancestry," with its Lion King father, or Nitz's "Cat and Dog Spat," with the disdainful cat turning her back on the arrogant male dog, a pile of children's blocks at the side indicating how childish the argument is.

But it is our own stories that actually get told in these clever works, as we apply our own histories to the characters and scenes depicted. Who among us can't relate to a hospital staffed by animals (Nitz), or invent a story about a sweet cat and rabbit couple on a moonlight stroll (Roster)?

Nitz's exquisite palette should be noted, in particular her luscious pinkish and orange tones. In some instances the paintings are nearly monochromatic with a deep pink the only warmth among black, gray and white. Other paintings are a medley of nearly indescribable colors (and several have ordinary color ranges).

Out at Hawai'i Pacific University, Ellen Leo is showing her photograms, which are photographs produced without a camera by placing objects directly on sensitized paper and exposing them to light, a technique developed by the American surrealist Man Ray.

Leo's photograms incorporate organic and other materials in mysterious abstract compositions that seem as ephemeral as life itself. These are fleeting, shifting images, revealing new aspects with each look.

The floating, twisting forms in Saba Daraee's Impressions, executed in oil stick on paper, also are ephemeral, The forms are so full of life that they seem as if they could change before one's very eyes.

Daraee's experiments with capturing geometric forms in movement are very successful indeed.