Review: Deborah Ballard
Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden, Dallas
May 20-June 16, 2012
Deborah Ballard: Alter Ego is a exhibition of a large number of Ballard figurative works, both in the gallery and in the gorgeous sculpture garden at Valley House Gallery in North Dallas.
Cheryl and Kevin Vogel’s gardens have long welcomed Ballard figures, sometimes here and sometimes there, but always nearby like a favorite neighbor. Ballard sculptures sometimes congregate in groups. You’ll see two having a conversation or maybe three friends sitting on a bench or enjoying the sunshine in the grass.
Ballard is a Dallas artist with an MFA from SMU who is a master of conveying an emotion or a story without using her figure’s facial expressions as a crutch. I’m not exactly sure how she does this – it’s a kind of magic. Her creation’s eyes don’t meet yours – if the sculpture’s face has features, its eyes are closed.
Creating three-dimensional human beings must be a very Genesis-like experience – the artist creates and controls her progeny. Like an accomplished dancer who tells a story with a movement or a gesture, Ballard’s figures, most of whom have just sketched-in faces, still manage somehow to reveal what they are thinking.
Ballard’s people, especially the life-size or over-life-size ones, are substantial, weighty figures. They convey a sense of stillness and alone-ness but without melancholy. They are figures you could live with – in fact, you might even find yourself considering one a confidant should you live long enough with him or her.
Ballard is a prolific artist who works in scale from inch-tall figures to over life-size. In Sculptor at Work and Inspection of #1 and #1, Ballard plays with scale by placing a smaller full figure sculpting or contemplating a large bust.
She sometimes adds graphite, wax, and resin details to her plaster works. In Maquette from the Conversation Series, some pencil facial details have been added to an old woman in a long mustard colored coat. In another, Reflection Series: No Name, with stunning simplicity, two simple pencil crosses mark a figure’s chest. Reflection, a life-size white figure, is branded with a glossy chest piece – a bat-like tobacco-colored Rorschach ink blot figure with wings (at least that’s what I saw.)
I was excited to see a figure with a social justice theme in the show. Saving Gaia II is a pregnant woman holding her firstborn high above her head perhaps to protect him – or as a christening. In Greek mythology, Gaia is the “great mother of all” – the personification of the Earth.
Ballard is a benevolent creator. She’s lovingly fabricated a soulful and quietly captivating community of work that is inspirational to behold.