A little girl in a paisley dress seated on a fractal-colored rock motions us in. Other cut-outs of trees, fluffy clouds and winding vines set the scene for a pop-up book adventure, but quickly the viewer discovers it’s not business as usual.
Throughout Su Limbert’s new exhibit, Into the Wild, we find young girls in gaze-lock with grizzlies and wolves. In each staring contest, there is fearless acceptance verging on an unspoken bond — a truce between classic rivals, perhaps? They’ve been placed at odds by the Brothers Grimm for more than a hundred years, but Limbert’s pairings of the two suggest a discovery of interdependence. For what is the wolf without Little Red Riding Hood?
The kinship soon leads to a blending of the two forms. In the title painting, on a chevron-shaped wood panel and a charming aged-color palette, a young girl seeks refuge by withdrawing into the cozy interior of a large black bear. Pale-faced girls are seen peeking out from the dark jaws of wolf-head masks in paintings and illustrations on floral china — or they’ve been delicately chiseled into porcelain plates. Using dinner plates to frame the fragile-feral creature combo pushes gently against notions of civilized society and domesticity.
The idea of contact between wild and domestic environments is a recurring theme. Taking hefty visual influence from Maurice Sendak’s classic tale Where the Wild Things Are, we encounter affable swamp monsters, their furry claws cuddling scared cartoonish cottages. Another great horned monster has an entire village nesting in its tangled hair. A couple of wooden silhouettes of children have paintings of wolves and bears swapped in for brains. However, the extension of blue and red veins creeping out from the heads to link with other animals pushes the concept heavy-handedly.
Similarly, the addition of certain illustrated elements overwhelm other works. In one painting, the exchange of a colored ribbon between a girl and a wolf gets lost in a backdrop of falling raindrops. Two panels of twin girls spewing colors at one another seem unresolved within the exhibit. A nearby cottage struggles with the difficult transformation of sprouting monstrous arms to grip its rooftop as the frightened house exhales bits of porcelain. These are minor points for Limbert to consider as she continues to refine her artistic vision.
INTO THE WILD: Saturday-Sunday, 12-7 p.m., Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., through Nov. 30. Blackbird Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St., Suite A, www.blackbirdstudioslv.com, free.