Critters abound in the artwork of Vanessa Gonzalez and Steve Johnson, both of whom are featured at the Inside/Outside exhibition at Rick Rhodes Photography and Imaging this week. While Johnson’s graphite drawings will focus on nature in a more literal sense (his inspiration is from the creatures that visit his yard), Gonzalez’s oil and pastel paintings depict eight years of stuffed animals mangled by her dog, Mick.

Johnson is a third-year assistant professor of drawing at the College of Charleston. Conceptually, Johnson’s works deal with nature in a realistic way, inviting the viewer to observe the actions and reactions between different animals, and to draw their own conclusions. “I’m excited,” Johnson says. “I was just having fun with the pieces in this show.”

Johnson’s featured work is similar in subject matter with what he normally creates, but the drawings in this show are stylistically more raw and simplistic. Johnson’s 2011 show at the Halsey Institute featured mixed media on wooden panels. With Inside/Outside, the pieces are all finished graphite sketches on paper. “These are softer representations with more detail,” Johnson says.

Gonzalez, a local artist with roots in Santa Fe, New Mexico, paints stuffed animals in surreal, dreamy sorts of settings. Her pieces are on wood or canvas, and vary in size. The paintings are inspired by her dog. “He has hundreds of toys all over my house,“ Gonzalez says. “I make paintings after these toys he’s kind of demolished.”

While the paintings give these inanimate objects lives of their own, they are meant more as a commemoration than a statement. “Its been kind of a personal thing for me,” she says. “I’ve had this dog for eight years, so these objects have become part of my environment.”

The exhibit is at Rick Rhodes Photography and Imaging in West Ashley. Opening night is Fri. June 15, with a reception from 6-9 p.m. The exhibition runs until July 13.


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