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Artists make Appearances

Visitors to Centre Gallery will be greeted with images of skin being pulled from flesh, heads floating in midair and knobby figures with distorted features staring straight out of the canvas. Sounds like Halloween came early this year? Guess again.

It’s called Appearances, an artistic collaboration between 25-year-old Daniel Mantilla and 26-year-old Michelle Rainey, both painting students and veterans of several shows inside and outside of USF. The two artists came together to present their current work. According to their artist statement, their show “explores the oddities of cultural constructs through the lenses of two very stylistically different artists.” Although the content may sound like a horror show, it’s quite the opposite.

“We were thinking of the title as something suggestive,” Mantilla said. “It’s like a starting point for people to look around … and start thinking about the things that are there – how things appear to be and what things are.”

Unrealistic places abound in both artists’

work, including green-skinned figures climbing through what appears to be muscle fiber in Rainey’s “Strangers,” or the grungy skies and white picket fences of Mantilla’s “Good Friends.” Both artists demonstrate skill in playing with space and distorting perception through the juxtaposition of loaded cultural symbols. Stylistic shifts from smoothly rendered figures to sudden patches of flat, graphic color leave the viewer a little unsure as to which is the intended illusion and which is real.

“A lot of the work is about misinterpretation or illusion,” Rainey explained. When asked about the disjointed techniques employed in some of their work, she said, “I think it adds to the surreality of placing something that’s very realistic in a very unrealistic place.”

One surprising factor in the show is the lack of apparent political or ideological content, despite the use of such powerful social icons as telephone poles, babies and military uniforms. Rather, the viewer is given all these things at once with no clear direction or intent and is left to sort through the signs without help. This may leave some feeling confused and unable to interpret the variety of symbols in any coherent way.

One might think that the lack of an overt message would be detrimental, especially as this show follows closely on the heels of the politically charged Your Bill, Our Rights. But students who noted the difference made favorable


“I liked it a lot better than the anti-war show,” freshman Blake Pablo said. “This is something new, fresh, original.”

Brett Crabtree, a junior, had similar feelings.

“It’s very creative – very different from the last show,” he said. “I like the blending of themes in some of the paintings.”

This blending of themes was no coincidence, as the two artists planned the show to address common elements from the beginning.

“We found things in common, but I think the most attractive thing is that we are very different painters,” Mantilla said. “The work that we were executing at the time … would have two things that are very different, but tied together as well.”

Regardless of their differing visual styles, the artists successfully convey a feeling of otherworldliness through their work, creating a space where the interplay of symbols within and between their individual pieces encourage viewers to look beyond what is seen – a space where delicate brushwork and smooth shading sit side by side with hard lines and bold, expressive strokes. Far from frightening, these paintings evoke an offbeat beauty that entices rather than repulses.

Appearances will run through Oct. 5 at Centre Gallery. The reception will be held this Friday,

Sept. 28, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.