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written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Sunflower Salsa

Sunflower Salsa

August is often one of the hottest summer months … so Barbara Moore’s vibrant “Sunflower Salsa” seemed absolutely fitting! Even without the title we would know that some serious dancing is going on here. These flowers intend to rock our world!

One of the first things that struck me about this piece was the rather stylized treatment. I’ve always enjoyed realism that is not quite realistic, where the artist feels free to alter things if necessary. In this case, we see that Moore is concerned with colour and shape rather than fine detail. She’s employed a lot of artistic license: aren’t sunflowers supposed to be yellow? Not here! Instead, these sunflowers burn with hot reds and rich oranges, several of their petals finishing in a lick of yellow as if each petal were a flame.

A work with “Sunflower Salsa” for a title is obviously going to be about movement, and the artist conveys it with several techniques. I find that one of the most effective is the fragmented look she has given to the whole thing. Large, smooth areas of even colour and/or tone have a calming effect, whereas many smaller contrasting areas can have the opposite. Here, we see how Moore breaks up the entire work into flickering, flame-shaped pieces of colour that remind me of brushstrokes more than pencil marks.

Of course, such an approach is also risky. If they are not carefully organized, so many small broken areas can be chaotic. However, everything is well-coordinated here. The artist unifies the composition with a lot of diagonal lines to guide us around the work. The flowers in themselves contain diagonal lines, but they also add another kind of movement by twisting in subtly different directions as their petals spin around them. Our eyes jump here and there, eager to take it all in.

Moore has also used some cooler complements in her background, soft greens and blues. These cooler colours are like the chaperones of this dance, making sure that things don’t get out of hand. They hold the rest of the palette in check. However, I do notice some touches of red-violet in the lower right corner. It’s as if these decorous onlookers are beginning to catch some dancing fever! I think the rest of us soon will too!