Dianne Soffa @ Safi Studios
Safi Studios is tucked away on the far east side of the lower level of the Marshall Building. I’ve written about the art of two of the proprietors, Tom Kovacich and Jane Gates and feel it’s time to write about the third, Dianne Soffa, a Madison artist who makes my mouth water.
On a recent gallery visit with Nicole Hauser, her mouth watered too.
For starters, I am tempted to compare her work to “food art,” but no, Soffa doesn’t shape doughnuts and crullers from clay. What’s distinctive about her small works (most effective I think, when displayed on a pedestal), is the variety of colors in her tasty palette, each sprinkled just so in the way that colorful jimmies perhaps decorated a memorable cake baked for your birthday.
The first time I saw her work, I left feeling hungry for “real” art, though I have to admit that her 3’ x 3’ oil on canvas, a blazing orange beauty titled Thumbelina Turbo, is outstanding. It could be a close-up of a super-charged sports car, or the rippled skin of an orange viewed through a microscope. Whatever it may be, it’s gorgeous.
But I was wrong about her small works. They’re far beyond the world of sweets.
The next time I strolled into Safi I left with one of her pieces, a cunning wooden cube measuring 2”x 2”, topped with encaustic drips in hues of violet, rosy pink and here and there, a dollop of yellow. The total effect is that of a green landscape pebbled with hints of spring and rebirth. But it’s easy enough to overlook these exquisite part painting/part sculptures and dismiss them as decorative ploys.
Soffa’s art is intense and focused fantasy neatly conceived and won via her B.F.A. in painting from the University of Texas, and her M.F.A. in painting from UW-Madison. My personal method is to pretend I’m a bird flying over, or parallel to, her small work. Shrinking myself to better fit into her world made me venture a guess that, at heart, she is one with landscapes. Her outstanding efforts were recently included in the Dean Jensen Gallery’s third annual Big Bang/Small Bucks exhibition, and according to her MARN bio, she’s exhibited widely throughout the Midwest.
Safi is one of Milwaukee’s best small venues, and Soffa is certainly a fine artist. The lower level of the Marshall Building doesn’t mean the art is below par. It isn’t. See for yourself.
Safi Studios is located in Suite LL8 of The Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo. For gallery info and hours, click here.