Veda Reed, Anne Davey, and Mary Long-Postal take us to the edge.

Anne Davey, Girl Underwater, at Perry Nicole Fine Art

Anne Davey, Girl Underwater, at Perry Nicole Fine Art

In "Veda Reed: Keep Looking Up," the current exhibition at David Lusk Gallery, Reed demonstrates her mastery of glazed skyscapes as she takes us on a journey across large, luminous Midwestern skies to intimations of immortality to transcendence tinged with terror.

Color and tone seamlessly gradate from glowing lavender to deep purple to midnight blue to a nearly black but still luminous sky accented with a slender white arc above a single point of light in Venus and the Crescent Moon. Nearly transparent swaths of yellow-gold fade into softly glowing mauve in Clouds at Sunset, and ember-orange puffs hover in a blood-red sky in Gathering Clouds.

In addition to painting scenes of great natural beauty, Reed uses skyscapes as a metaphor for the afterlife and for the apocalypse. In Golden Clouds (Heaven's Gate for "Beaver"), narrow slits of light pierce a burnt-umber sky. A semifigurative, stair-stepped bank of white-gold clouds fills the top left of the painting. Painted in remembrance of her mother, Golden Gate stands as a poignant metaphor for the felt presence of deceased loved ones, for memories that can suddenly well up and cut to the quick and for that broader connection we feel when someone we love passes through heaven's gate.

Instead of a picture-postcard sunset, Three Black Clouds looks like the heads of large serpents or dark spirits or fierce Buddhist deities closing in from all sides as they swallow up the sun and sky. In Day's End, a glowing red sun falls down the center of a long, lean deep-blue canvas toward a pitch-black abyss. Both transcendent and terrifying, these two paintings take us into a vision not just of end-times but an ongoing apocalypse of big bangs and black holes. Reed invites us to the dance of Shiva where universes are continually created and destroyed. Through October 31st Anne Davey's exhibit of "New Work" at Perry Nicole Fine Art captures both the outward appearance and the inner experience of swimming underwater. Many of her figures look as fluid, sinuous, and weightless as the undulating bodies of jellyfish. The expression of the woman in Davey's charcoal-on-gessoed-paper Spin captures the look of a swimmer lost in her underwater world as well as the focus required to navigate that world's currents and waves.

Veda Reed, Three Black Clouds, at David Lusk Gallery
  • Veda Reed, Three Black Clouds, at David Lusk Gallery

Countless subtle but satisfying touches include the young swimmer who grasps her right ankle in Girl Underwater in a gesture that looks like a movement in an underwater ballet. But Davey goes far beyond the lyrical to create a postmodern dance that is undulating, inventive, ambiguous, and unsettling.

Part human, part sea creature, part phantom, Girl Underwater folds into herself, refracting and distorting her body to the point that her right arm is reed-thin. Her right foot — broad, flat, and as large as the rest of her leg — shape-shifts into a paddle that can propel her body through the water and slap the surface to warn of danger. A black shadow obscures the rest of her body except for the sunlight that plays across her tiny, almost featureless face.

Icy Depths 2 by Mary Long-Postal, at Perry Nicole
  • Icy Depths 2 by Mary Long-Postal, at Perry Nicole

Davey's fluid lines and forms extend beyond the water into the bedroom. For example, the oil-on-board Under the Covers 1 is dominated by a large, light-gray comforter that billows and folds back like the waves in this artist's waterscapes. Through October 31st Mary Long-Postal's encaustic paintings, also at Perry Nicole, work as expressive abstractions and evocative cityscapes. Rectangles floating across modulated color fields suggest the artist's sensations as she cruises through drizzling rain past saturate swatches of color in billboards that dot the landscape.

Nearly transparent white rectangles float across her panels like illuminated department-store windows in New City 1 and frigid air in Icy Depths 2. Translucent layers of smoky gray look like the haze of humidity and pollution in New City 2, palimpsests of mind in Foggy Memory 3, and the haze of an even more atmospheric centuries-old city along the Seine in Paris 3.

Add pink to the palette, childlike drawings of homes, and inventive linework and Long-Postal's layers of translucent beeswax provide glimpses into the artist's playful and passionate emotional makeup in My Blood Runs Strawberry Quik 1.

The largest work in the show, Toto's Geographical Cure Nearly Killed Us All, reveals Long-Postal's range of vision as her signature gray background is replaced by five square feet of a luminous Kansas sky. Outlines of tiny houses and larger ramshackle structures remind us of the frailty of human architecture compared to the forces of nature. This is the light before the storm, before Long-Postal increases her cruising speed to warp-drive and hurls Toto and Dorothy past all of earth's farmsteads and cityscapes into Oz.

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