Originally Published: January 10, 2011 9:59 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Brightly colored birds adorn large canvasses while seven ceramic head sculptures look down from above. Prescott artists Pat McAllister and Carol Russell's art could not be more different, nor their artistic approach to it.
"It's a very playful and whimsical show with Pat's bright colors and Carol's muted, earthy sculptures," said Jennifer Chandler, Prescott College Art Gallery's gallery coordinator. "It makes an interesting contrast."
The exhibition, "Carol Russell & Pat McAllister," opened this past week at the college's art gallery in the Sam Hill Warehouse, 232 N. Granite St., in Prescott. The show is on display through Feb. 5, and the artists will attend an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14.
McAllister uses acrylic paints to create brightly colored scenes, many featuring birds, on huge canvasses.
Russell creates unusual, and at times surreal, ceramic figurative sculptures combining wood, metal and other earth materials into the finished pieces.
In addition to working in opposite media, the two artists begin each piece in opposite ways.
"I start each piece with an idea," Russell said.
"I don't have the slightest idea what I'm going to do," McAllister said. "I just start putting up lines and colors and eventually the picture starts to emerge."
Both artists responded to Chandler's call for artists, and a selection committee picked both of them in the first round of review, Chandler said. But initially she did not consider showing their work together in one exhibition.
"I started looking at their work together and just saw this beautiful connection between their work," Chandler explained. "They have some similar symbolism with the birds in the paintings and the bird sculptures."
McAllister does not offer any interpretations or stories about his paintings, "I leave that up to the viewer." Russell's pieces, however, each have a story to tell.
"I'm a storyteller in clay," she said. "It could be from a dream, a current event, or an old story like a myth."
Upon entering the gallery, the first display visitors encounter is Russell's "Empty Nest." A shirtless figure holds a cup of tea while a teapot and two empty birdcages dangle over a shoulder.
"This is about my kids leaving for college and the changes in my life," she said. "The empty cages are my empty nest."
McAllister's paintings have a dream-like look to them, but he lets the finished painting develop itself.
"I put on more and more paint and colors, and then refine and refine until I can't do anymore," he said. "Then it's finished."
And why all those birds?
"I paint lots of birds, but I don't know why," he said bemused.
Russell created seven human-looking heads and perched them on a wall in the center of the gallery. However, they do not have anything to do with voodoo or headhunters - they represent the star constellation Pleiades, or more commonly called, The Seven Sisters.
Russell has lived and created art in Prescott for 30 years. McAllister, whom some residents may remember as the owner of the "Camera Center" photography store, has called Prescott home for 37 years.
"This is a fun, playful, whimsical experience," Chandler said about the show. "And it's nice to honor local artists."
The gallery is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free. For more information, call 350-2341, or visit www.prescott.edu.