Forces of nature play out in show at David Lusk Gallery

'Forest for the Trees,' gouache, thread, found paper.

"Forest for the Trees," gouache, thread, found paper.

Maysey Craddock, ‘Forest for the Trees’

Through Dec. 22 at David Lusk Gallery, 4540 Poplar, in Laurelwood. Call 901-767-3800

Maysey Craddock's work elicits lyricism and complicated emotions from the destructive powers of natural forces.

Her exhibition "Forest for the Trees," on display through Dec. 22 at David Lusk Gallery, marks the artist's fourth show at the gallery inspired by the devastation that Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

Now, seven years after the cataclysm, Craddock's view, though still personal, seems more detached, almost Olympian. It feels as if we're dealing here not only with Katrina's aftermath but also with a general perspective on the vanity and heartbreak of human endeavors, pointed up for us in the past few years by drought, tsunamis, unprecedented blizzards and other hurricanes, including the recent assault by Sandy in the Northeast region of the United States.

Craddock's medium is gouache, a form of watercolor that's heavier, more opaque and chalkier than other watercolor mediums, and her armature consists of brown paper sacks unfolded and sewn together with silk thread. This surface lends her work a natural and roughened aura, a sense of making-do belied by the meticulousness of her technique, which seems to become more adept with every show.

With the exception of a group of smaller 8-by-10-inch pieces that feel provisional and tacked on, Craddock revels in size in "Forest for the Trees," and the exhibition's centerpieces include the large-scale "Heart of Light and Silence" (50 by 67 inches) and "Forest for the Trees" (47 by 62 inches). These are somber, monumental works that extend and make explicit themes the artist has dealt with since 2005: destruction, ruin, melancholy and the sad and sublime sense of beauty that such elegiac notions bring us.

Collapsed warehouses, torn siding, twisted rebar in Craddock's visual vocabulary substitute for the shattered palaces and temples that 18th century European artists tended to depict in their representations of the distant wreckage of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.

Craddock, of course, works much closer to home; the ravaging of our sinking shorelines and coastal cities and towns is terribly real and not some picturesque page from fading mythology. Yet the inclusion of arched openings in structures that suggest classical or European architecture in pieces such as "Shored against the Ruin" and "Whisper in the Stones," implies a universalizing of Craddock's intention that expands her theme more broadly into the cycles of change and ruin that characterize human achievement.

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