Twenty years in the mind of Ron Dale

Posted on Oct 31 2013 - 6:59am by Clara Turnage

Ron Dale

“Recollecting: 1980-2012” is a collection of artwork produced over 20 years by Ron Dale currently exhibited at the University Museum. Ron Dale produces beautifully complex and surprisingly simple ceramic pieces that alter visual norms and question realities of objects.

Dale alters the viewers’ acuity through multiple means of perceptional variation. He confuses the onlookers by changing the typecast expectations of art. The images can appear twisted, distant, receding or advancing all through the alterations made by the clever artist.

“Combined with architectural and furniture imagery, I am able to explore concepts of altered space and perspective, light and shadow and the flattening of form while allowing for a more direct expression of ideas —ideas dealing with both social and personal issues,” said Dale. “I view them as three-dimensional paintings-images, color and texture layered one on top of the other. I often use suggested “mirrors” to reflect space as a means of enveloping the viewer, placing him/her in a particular environment.”

“Ain’t Life Great,” one of the pieces on display, is a perfect example of Dale’s alterations. The piece is a green mirror and table with two Grecian vases resting atop it. The enlarged uppermost area of the mirror tapers and narrows as it descends, giving a sense that the mirror recedes from the viewer. The legs of the table angle towards the viewer, giving the overall effect a very altered, distorted quality.

In the mirror is a different scene entirely; there is a wide room with yellow walls and a red carpet, beautiful doors open to the balcony and the landscape beyond. An interesting facet of the painting is the angle at which the room and vases are portrayed. In the mirror the viewer looks into the vases and the room is scene from a risen position. It is as though Dale is allowing the viewer to rise, or even fly, in his domain. Perhaps the doors are open so that we may escape into the world he created. The piece has a surreal, dreamlike quality that draws viewership.

In part of the collection, Dale goes against thousands of years of artistic progression as he takes three-dimensional pottery and, through framing and compressed viewpoints, creates a two-dimensional illusion. The orthogonal lines in the framework draw the piece away from the viewer while the upturned corners and compressed figures force the work in an innovative direction. From a distance one would think he or she was looking upon a framed paining; the genius of the piece is in its simplicity.

“I try to combine strong tradition with an awareness of contemporary meaning in developing simple, straightforward forms,” Dale explained.

Another period of Dale’s collection draws upon shadow manipulation. One piece has very rigid, bar-like shadows painted over a purposefully plain plate and cup, giving a feeling of incarceration and desperation. Another work features a tiny white urn, whose silhouette stretches into a huge physical representation of shadow through the use of black material and a second, larger vase identical in shape. The result is the embodiment of the proverb: “Even the smallest can cast the largest shadow, when it stays within the light.”

Dale’s work can be huge, furniture-sized works stressed into something reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, or tiny pottery casting its own unique shadow in the gallery.  The works inspire the imagination and force the viewer to take a second look. The collection will reside in the University Museum until Jan. 11, 2014.

 — Clara Turnage