Living Columns & Blogs

Art expressed with esoteric mystique

The labor intensive precision invested in his works is hardly noticeable unless you get very close to Dennis Applebee’s framed art. On January’s First Friday, Applebee’s opening in the Gallery of Macon Arts Alliance was an approach to art that requires the discipline of a hand surgeon and the conviction that a relationship exists between art and structure or, that one can be interpreted by the other.

Applebee, a professor in the art department at Wesleyan College, is a print maker that etches images in zinc before printing on paper – he may not stop there if the print needs some embellishment. Where more strength is needed in conveying an action, Applebee might apply more ink to the print. Etching is done in reverse to the final image; therefore, expressing nuanced effects can be tricky. In his 2008 etching, “Circumnavigate,” light and shadow, energy and texture are combined to create movement – the background curtain is in motion.

Applebee is also a collage artist that uses intricately cut pieces of paper to “explore relationships between music, language and mathematics,” by “seeing” musical notes in letters, by using the rhythm of musical notes to create geometric shapes. “Double Spiral,” a collage made in 2008, is comprised of absolute slithers of paper cut from sheet music and arranged in the abstract rectangle of intertwining square spirals, similar to an old maze.

From a distance, “Pyramid,” a 10 x 20 inch collage, appears to be bustling with activity, set against a less populated desert. Scaling the levels of the pyramid, musical notes and symbols interact and move on, much like the moving walkway at the airport. Because of the altered perspective, facilitated by the artist’s manipulation of the marks on paper, walking away, backwards, and then closer to each collage was a fascinating exercise for the patrons at the First Friday event.

Some of Applebee’s collages are larger in scope. “Portals (Passageway)” and “Floating Portals” are combined images of magnificent entrance ways to architectural treasures. The juxtaposition of the arches and columns with the reflection of the water gives the viewer a slightly off kilter feeling, similar to viewing op art, but with renewed composure, the details of colossal entrances of the buildings have a mathematical and lilting, mystical relevance to each other. Be sure to see Applebee’s work in the Macon Arts Alliance Gallery before January 26.

Art On Fire at the 567 Center For Renewal

Heather McLaurin, whose paintings are being exhibited at the 567 Center for Renewal during this month, has been drawing for as long as she can remember. On First Friday, her paintings had a new twist. For two years, she has been using a medium called “fumage,” actually the application of smoke to canvas, and now considers it her favorite means of expression.

According to McLaurin, the process starts with stenciling images on a canvas, after it has been properly primed and completely dried. The stencils are part of the vision and composition for the finished product. Smoke is then applied to the canvas with candles held close to the surface, near enough to almost set the canvas on fire, but not quite. As McLaurin said, the smoke has to be applied correctly the first time, slightly charring the canvas, because repeating the process will damage the canvas, making it brittle.

After the dust or ash from the smoke has settled on the canvas as soot, which is very soft, McLaurin said she uses small tools to lift and to manipulate the soot to create and/or to reveal images on and around the original stenciled figures. Each of her paintings has a surreal, rising from the ashes, appearance. The alteration of the base colors by the smoke is never a given – McLaurin said she is always fascinated by the end result since no two paintings ever result in the same fumaged finish.

After lifting enough of the soot from the canvas and cleaning off loose residue, McLaurin said the canvas must be varnished to seal the image, a process which must be done meticulously or the canvas is ruined. To see how McLaurin achieves the final finish, see her work at the 567 before the end of the month.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or