Amid the landscape of exhibition opportunities, local cafes and coffee shops are often a fun way to get one’s art in front of a viewing audience. While the quality of the work can range from spectacular to mediocre, when one stumbles upon a gem, it’s always a treat. This is how I felt when I walked into Roasted Cafe & Lounge and saw the current exhibition of paintings by Sharon Clabo.
I’ve met Clabo several times. She’s a small-framed woman with a welcoming smile and a humble nature. She’s known throughout Macon’s art community for the quality and affordability of her work. And while I have often enjoyed her paintings, the work she currently has on display at Roasted compelled me to return for a second visit.
Near the front of the cafe hangs “Everything is Numbered,” a mixed-media painting that uses simple squares and circles arranged in a grid-like pattern to create a compelling non-objective composition. By compelling, I mean I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, and I debated with a co-worker about which of us wanted it more. The color variations of the circles give emphasis to a rectangular arrangement in the lower left portion of the painting. It’s simple and elegant in its design, but the color choices give the painting a jovial, fun quality.
Looking at her body of work more generally, thematic patterns emerge. Clabo is focused on the mythological and the spiritual. Works like “The Gods are Listening” and “Penelope tells Odysseus to Go Fly a Kite” demonstrate how mythology provides fodder for her work. She also has a keen sense of humor. Another painting, “Area 51,” contains a primitive figure evocative of tribal art while simultaneously harkening to the modern mythology surrounding UFOs and belief in extraterrestrials.
Clabo is not afraid to be funny or literal. Another work, titled “Three Pieces of Wire” contains a collage of woven strips of paper on canvas with a simple dark square in the top third of the composition. In the center of the square, three pieces of wire are attached. The woven strips of paper is one of Clabo’s most successful approaches, and her literal treatment of the title suggests a spiritual connection to the mundane and the ordinary.
Her interest in history goes beyond myth and extends to her own heritage. In “Ancestors,” Clabo uses a mass of handprints to create a image that suggests a search for context in her own life. “Family” is a painting with an ancient quality, in which Clabo almost magically turns the work’s surface into ancient leather. Her approach is personal and perhaps autobiographical, though the narratives are mostly hidden within the artistic process, cloaked in her minimal compositions.