Center for the Arts

Vero Beach, FL



Eyes and Windows: Rainey Dimmitt and Cheryl Tall


The Center for the Arts will present an intriguing two-person exhibition of works by Rainey Dimmitt of Ormond Beach and Cheryl Tall of Stuart in its newly reopened Florida Gallery. Titled "Eyes and Windows," the exhibition takes a look at the relationship between people and architecture in colorful ceramic sculptures and paintings in pastel and oil. The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, January 22, 2000 and will continue through Sunday, February 27, 2000.

Why "Eyes and Windows?" For Cheryl Tall and Rainey Dimmitt, one is a metaphor for the other. Take, for example, Cheryl Tall's ceramic sculptures, which often combine human and architectural elements to form a creature that is part house, part human being. Her work of the past few years has represented human figures with roofs for skulls and windows for eyes and, conversely, buildings that sprout human heads and limbs. While Rainey Dimmitt has not yet formed a strange new race of house-people, her areas of interest, depictions of historic buildings and people, are filled with the individuality, character and life that one would associate with portraiture. If "eyes are the windows of the soul," these artists' works seem to argue that buildings are as much a receptacle of the soul as the human body.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Florida, Cheryl Tall studied art at Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. After graduation, she taught for a few years before opening her own pottery studio in 1981. For some time Tall specialized in designing and producing her own line of dinnerware, but eventually she craved a more personal mode of expression. She returned to college to study ceramic sculpture, receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Miami in 1995. Since that time, Romanesque and medieval art and architecture has inspired the form of Tall's work; its fanciful substance has been influenced by her interest in mythology and folk tales. (left: Cheryl Tall, Handy Man, 1998, ceramic, 36 x 15 x 16 inches)

Her sculptures began as picturesque architectural structures, notably capitals (the uppermost, ornamented part of a pillar) adorned with people and animals. Five years ago, after she moved from Miami to Stuart, Florida, a major home remodeling project influenced the course of Tall's art. During the time that she and her family were coping with the changes that the house was undergoing, Tall started to create her hybrid house-people, which seemed to her to be the most natural way to translate what was on her mind into art. Tall's most recent series of work, which will also be seen in the exhibition, expresses her concern for the natural environment. Her desire for the harmonious existence of human beings with each other and with nature is represented in sculptures in which the human figure become a refuge for birds and other animals. As in African and Oceanic sculpture, sometimes the figures are two-headed, or take on the characteristics of the animals with which they are depicted. (right: Cheryl Tall, Nest of the Questers, 1999, ceramic, 37 x 18 x 16 inches)

Tall's construction of her sculptures is an architectural feat in itself. She builds up by pressing soft coils of clay together she raises a form row upon row, pinching the coils together as she goes. So that she will be able to fit the sculptures into her kiln for firing, she builds in sections, forming each piece so that it fits exactly into the next. In this way the sculptures can be neatly disassembled for firing, and put back together without the use of glue for display. Tall has constructed sculptures over six feet tall using the technique.

Rainey Dimmitt was born into an artistic family. She was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia where her father, who was a painter of seascapes and sailing vessels, supplemented his income with his art. Her mother, a Jewish immigrant from Rumania, wrote poetry reflecting her family's daily life. A cousin on her mother's side was the actor, art collector, and amateur painter Edward G. Robinson; another relative was Ben Zuckerman, a fashion designer whose work became well-known during the 1950s. (left: Rainey Dimmitt, The Blue Tree, 1999, oil on paper)

From the time she was a little girl, Dimmitt envisioned herself as a painter. She studied commercial art at Richmond Professional Institute in Virginia and, later in life, resumed her art education at the University of South Florida in Tampa where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1978. Since that time she has broadened her education with visits to London and Paris and travels in Germany, Austria, Norway, Russia, China and Kenya.

Some years ago Dimmitt worked in watercolor, rendering the world around her in colorful detail. After changing her medium to pastel in the 1990s, the work retained its vibrant color but gradually lost its meticulous detail. This was replaced by the rich texture of the pastel medium, which was used to suggest the atmosphere of a place or the mood of a human subject. The exhibition will include pastels completed by Dimmitt over a two-year period, 1995 to 1997. These are pictures of people and of sites in the Ormond-Daytona Beach area. The exhibition also includes some of recent, more abstract works in oil paint on paper and on canvas. (right: Rainey Dimmitt, The Lottery Player, 1997, oil on paper)

Dimmitt works from life. Her human figures are completed with a live model before her. Often these are professional models, but the artist's friends and her husband, Sterling Dimmitt, have also posed for the works that the artist considers to be character studies rather than the physical likenesses. The same principle holds true for her architectural subjects, which are begun and worked to a certain point on location, and then taken to the studio for fine tuning and completion. Although she takes her subjects from the real life around her, Dimmitt's pictures are about the reality inside herself. Her emotions, her nostalgic impulses, her sense of place and time are reflected in the faces and façades of her subjects. Reviewing a show of Dimmitt's paintings in 1995, one writer said it best: to look at Dimmitt's work is to "face the force of passion."

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