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Shifting Panoramas: by Elizabeth Mooney at the PCA

May 24, 2010

I hate to admit this, but I should be honest. I come from the suburbs. I’m not even from the pastoral, semi-wild Western Pennsylvania suburbs, but the New England suburbs. It’s the type of place with hyper-green grass, where nature is out beyond the window, or between the lattices of the screen porch, or behind a strip mall parking lot, visible but remote.

Elizabeth Mooney’s Shifting Panoramas, on display at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until June 13th, has two major themes. One is the speed and energy of a landscape; the other is the effect of the medium of perception on the viewer. The speed is apparent in her paintings, done on wood panels, which contain collections of lines and figures evoking super-colored grasses, trees, hectic spaces, and hints of meadows and skies behind the mix. Everything is active and moving, almost-but-not-quite-overstimulating. There are chunks of hard color interspersed with with patches of blending. The paintings contrast our pixelated with our natural view.

Shifting Panorama

The effect of the medium is present primarily in the two kinetic installations. One is a reflective ball surrounded by a picket fence. When you look into the ball you see yourself fenced in by something lovely but suffocating, which represents exactly how it feels to be in the suburbs.

Another perspective-changing mechanism is and upside down orange traffic cone retooled to be a kaleidoscope. Through it you see a portion of a landscape spinning, repeatedly and fragmentedly reflected.

Mooney’s images are fast and yet distant, showing the landscape with great energy and vim, but always keeping it slightly away from us, seen not directly, but through a medium.

Shifting Panoramas is currently on display at Gallery 6 in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

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