Kat Murrell
Visual Art

Clever Critters

Three artists use sculpture, paintings and prints to create a menagerie of curious creatures at Tory Folliard Gallery.

By - Mar 7th, 2014 12:55 pm
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Bill Reid, Flamingowl Mice Mare

Bill Reid, Flamingowl Mice Mare. Image courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

There’s a storybook quality to the works on view at the Tory Folliard Gallery. The sculptures, paintings, and prints by Bill Reid, Charles Munch, and Briony Morrow-Cribbs suggest fairy tales, surrealist musings, and scientific scrutiny mixed with poetic nostalgia.

Bill Reid makes an imaginative menagerie out of steel. Ranging from floor-standing figures as much as four feet tall to petite sculptures only inches tall, he brings to life a mechanical fantasy land where invented animals are ready to romp around the gallery space. There’s a sense of tragicomedy, as though his creatures could be both hapless and heroic. Odd combinations add to the playful whimsey. Flamingowl Mice Mare stands as a tall, graceful, owl-like figure, except that it holds a superstructure on its head where steel tendrils culminate in flamingo heads. Reid has an excellent sense of pattern and decoration. The sculptures are engaging as three-dimensional forms but the decorative details painted on the surface add to the liveliness of his curious creatures.

Charles Munch’s luminously bright, flat paintings are quite a counterpoint. Their visual spark comes from the rigorous organization of the artist’s characteristic style. He creates a world where the wilderness is tamed to spare but vivid outlines and schematic trees, populated by running, jumping, and watchful forest creatures. People inhabit his landscapes as hikers, sunbathers, and wanderers. Their insertion often makes clear the space between human nature and the forested landscape. While nature is a starting point for the compositions, Munch’s style draws strongly from the stylings of Pop Art, with electric colors and geometric shapes that regulate nature into standard forms.

Charles Munch, The Winter Meeting

Charles Munch, The Winter Meeting. Image courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

A painting like Evergreens is an organized place, a silent wintry place of stillness and falling snow with bounding bunnies and peaceful strolling foxes. Even the snow falls in neat circles. Munch’s clarity and objective order is consistent, but departed from slightly in The Winter Meeting. Two figures embrace, combining their bodies into a monumental pyramid under a vast night sky where glittering stars obey an order all their own. It is one of the few times in Munch’s work where seeming randomness takes hold. The cosmic variation of size and placement of stars accents the emotional arc of the two figures and the varying waves of human emotion.

The work of Briony Morrow-Cribbs is orderly and regimented in a far different way. Her prints and drawings are exquisite in their detail, like scientific illustrations of birds and snakes documenting every nuance of feathers and scales. But as clinical as that may sound, there is a sense of allegory in pieces such as Polycephone. Snakes wrap themselves around sinuous stems of red poppies, draping themselves over an animal skull. The symbolic references allude to sleep and death like a modern memento mori, reminding us of mortality. Yet it is not a dark picture, as brilliant light illuminates the cloudy gray background of the composition, adding a lightness as well as demonstrating Morrow-Cribb’s exceptional artistic technique. Mixing media a bit, she includes collaged printed leaves in Dicephodes, where the play of real shadows from the attached bits complements the illusion of shadow and space in the print.

Briony Morrow-Cribbs, Polycephone

Briony Morrow-Cribbs, Polycephone. Image courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

The animal images by these three artists all have a sense of fantasy and frolicsomeness. Collectively they hang together quite well, yet each artist’s work has its own story and style.

Bill Reid: What Could Bee?Charles Munch: New Paintings, and Briony Morrow-Cribbs: Terra Incognita close on March 8. Tory Folliard Gallery is located at 233 N. Milwaukee Street.




Forward 2014: A Survey of Wisconsin Art Now 

Charles Allis Art Museum

1801 N. Prospect Avenue

Opening reception 6-8:30pm

This exhibition will offer a view on contemporary trends of the state’s artists as selected by this year’s juror, Executive Director and CEO of the Museum of Wisconsin Art, Laurie Winters.



Certificates of Presence: Vivian Maier, Livija Patkne, J. Lindemann

These photographers explore presence and persona in captivating ways. It is the last opportunity to see this show featuring the work of Vivian Maier, whose body of recently discovered street photography has been earning critical praise nationwide. See the TCD review Visual Art: The Secret Life of an Artist.

Photograph by Vivian Maier, featured in Certificates of Presence at Portrait Society Gallery.

Photograph by Vivian Maier, featured in Certificate


Portrait Society Gallery

The Marshall Building

207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor

Exhibition closes Saturday, March 8


Six Women: Allison B. Cooke, Rebecca Crowell, Kay Knight, Paula Schultz, Stacey Steinberg, and Jean White

Elaine Erickson Gallery

The Marshall Building

207 E. Buffalo Street, First Floor

Exhibition closes March 9

This group show brings together abstract paintings by Rebecca Crowell and Allison B. Cooke, mixed media pieces by Kay Knight and Stacey Steinberg, plus works on paper by Paula Schulze and Jean White.


Enacting Acting 


2155 N. Prospect Avenue

Exhibition closes March 9

This multimedia exploration of illusion, emotion, and the actor’s art finishes its run this weekend. See the TCD review Visual Art: Truth and Fiction.


Wisconsin Artists Biennial 

Museum of Wisconsin Art

205 Veterans Avenue, West Bend

Exhibition closes March 9

Featuring a diverse array of work, this exhibition offers a sampler of contemporary trends in the work of Wisconsin Visual Arts member. See the TCD review Visual Art: Biennial and the Beauty of the Blue China.

0 thoughts on “Visual Art: Clever Critters”

  1. Anonymous says:

    How vastly different the work of all these artists at the Tory Folliard gallery, though based on the common theme of creatures! Thank you for this review!

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