Omaha’s Dundee has always had many charms, whether for its shops, cafes and beautiful homes in this walkable neighborhood, and for its 475 identical flower baskets hung on cast iron streetlights. Add to this list another summertime pleasure: Fresh Paint, a new exhibition by Paula Wallace, now on view at the Dundee Gallery through June 23. The show is dominated by two distinct painting series. Wallace’s 16 large figurative and landscape pieces are a thoughtful deliberation on the dynamics of meditative inquiry. These images provide a context and orientation for the smaller, whimsical “Damn Rabbits” series. Her painting process is derived from the reductive printmaking technique of pulling lights from a dark ground. She uses it to amplify her thematic concerns of finding meaning in a creative act done every day. Setting the tone for the exhibition is “Why We Paint.” A square format oil on panel, it depicts a young man looking up, using a paint roller to “reveal” the sky. A raven beside him looks down, to see itself with the sky, reflected in a small puddle of water. “Looking” as opposed to “seeing” are the operative verbs here, introducing us to the overall conceptualization of this body of work. “Room for Doubt” and “Absolution” each contain a single priest, compositionally situated to emphasize the inherent dilemma in responding to life’s larger questions. The paintings of nuns keep this liturgical premise consistent. The nun in “She Is Not Amused” shares with the viewer her dismay at finding the equations on her blackboard partially erased. The nun in “With Faith All Things Are Possible” keeps her balance on a unicycle. She is on a mission and will not be deterred. ( “One White Glove” presents an individual female, holding a large book to her body while striding down the street. She is “walking with purpose” Wallace said. The women depicted here have “seen” their own light and are now taking action. Similarly, “I go in every day,” the artist says, about her studio practice. “I do something creative every day. We all have it. We’re born with it. I make it something lovely. I make it something I can manage. We are all part of that loveliness.” The three small panel paintings in “Any Hill is Ararat” are framed in a salvaged part of an upright piano found in an old farmhouse. The title refers to the mountain on which Noah’s ark rested after the Flood subsided. The three panels appear to be different views, at different times of the day, of the same farmhouse. In “Seed Time and Harvest” the passage of time is evoked through the painterly progression of light to dark. The farmhouse placed at the bottom of the composition is emphasized by the painting’s vertical format. The concise color and composition allows the viewer to become disembodied, locating themselves within themselves. These landscapes tell a story of Wallace’s belief in everyday transcendence. “Let there be light” she quotes from the beginning of the Bible. ”Even a Small Light Shines in the Darkness” is a large horizontal painting. A partially hidden figure in one corner of the composition is looking at a lit candle in the darkness of the opposite corner. “A Boat with No Oars” is a large vertical painting. The yellow boat at the bottom of the composition appears to be coming out of the darkness. “It’s about how we get through,” Wallace says of this painting. “I wanted the boat to be welcoming. The viewer could step in that boat and get through.” Both of these images speak of interior distance and the location of self. The depth and breadth of that distance will be individually determined by each viewer. Conversely, “Damn Rabbits,” located in the center of the exhibition, is a series of miniature paintings portraying the reactions of furry, four footed hare caricatures to their own foibles. “The ‘Damn Rabbits’ is a bit of a cart before the horse process,” writes Wallace in her Artist Statement, “starting last winter after acquiring one of Amy Morin’s box bunnies [also on view in this show]. First one rabbit painting ‘Headmaster’ then another ’Busted’ and it went downhill from there.” The story connecting the rabbit vignettes emerged this past spring after Wallace completed all the artworks and was an Artist in Residence at the Council Bluffs Therapeutic School. The many service jobs Wallace has done have intensified her skills as an observer of human nature. Her rabbits have many moments: there are at least 27 in the series. Some of them qualify as “uh-oh.” ”Busted” reveals a bunny “caught in the act.” As it looks into the light being shined down, the carrot with a bite out of it is off to the side. The bunny’s own shadow in “Scare Yourself Silly” is the hobgoblin any viewer can identify with. The images are all contained in her story book “Damn Rabbits” also available at the gallery. “The story made itself known” she said, while she was working as an Artist in Residence at the Council Bluffs Therapeutic School. “Living with it, things fall where they’re supposed to. Set your intentions. Tell the truth. Tell what you see and observe.” Lessons taught and lessons learned are a recurring theme in Fresh Paint. “It is what it is” said Wallace, “We should be able to laugh at ourselves…laugh out loud.” Paul Wallace: Fresh Paint runs at the Dundee Gallery through June 23. For more information, visit

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