Falling into shadow

Gini Lijoi-Horne

Gini Lijoi-Horne points out the detail in one of her watercolor pieces.

Gini Lijoi-Horne points out the detail in one of her watercolor pieces.

Photo By David Robert

Finding your way through the construction areas to Truckee Meadows Community College’s Red Mountain Gallery may be a bit of a challenge this month, but it’s worth it. Although broken concrete and “caution” tape aren’t particularly conducive to artistic contemplation, Gini Lijoi-Horne’s vivid, detailed watercolors make up for the less-than-ideal viewing conditions.

Lijoi-Horne is no newcomer to the arts. Having earned her bachelor of arts degree from East Tennessee State University, she has made a career as a graphic designer, working with well-known clients such as Weight Watchers. She belongs to the Nevada Artists Association and the Sierra Arts Foundation and is an exhibiting member of the Artists’ Co-Op Gallery of Reno.

Working primarily in watercolors, Lijoi-Horne creates colorful and lively compositions that explore light and shadow in unusual ways.

The only visible object in “Wall Chatter” is a tall, slender vase of flowers, set on a brick floor, with gracefully leaning stalks and spiraling shoots. The real focus of the piece is the shadow cast across the wall by an unseen fence. Bold scrollwork and floral patterns stretch over the pale yellow backdrop; the shadow is a dynamic presence, shading seamlessly from blue to red to purple. It’s a comment on the artificiality inherent in any composition and invites the viewer to speculate on what’s been left out of the frame.

“Family Baseball” depicts a trio of baseball gloves—two empty, one with a baseball in the palm—sitting on a whitewashed wooden bench. Smooth washes of color give the rich, buttery effect of leather. The red stitching on the ball is raised and lumpy, pulling the skin of the ball taut. Here, the use of shadow is not as effective. The shadows cast onto the grass by the gloves create a confusing background that isn’t immediately recognizable. Still, the pleasing textural effects on the gloves create interest.

“Fountain with Youth” portrays a young girl and a woman at a fountain. The girl, hair blowing in the wind, bends toward the fountain with eyes closed, resting her weight with both hands on the woman’s arm. The woman smiles at the girl. Painted in bright reds and yellows and bathed in sunlight, the girl is clearly the center of the piece. The woman and her surroundings are done in softer blues and purples, receding into the afternoon shadows. Again, Lijoi-Horne’s interest in texture is apparent, both in the meticulous wrinkles of fabric and the porous, cratered surface of the stone fountain. It’s a lovely, candid moment, quite different from the carefully constructed still lifes elsewhere in the show.

Lijoi-Horne is at her best when working with geometric patterns of light and shade. Baskets, with their challenging woven surfaces and complicated shadows, are a favorite subject.

Lijoi-Horne’s eye for pattern and texture falters a bit, though, when painting people. Her human figures are limp and unconvincingly posed, lacking the dynamic energy and detail evident in her other subjects. Several European street scenes, with the requisite cobbled streets and balconies, are similarly unremarkable. Though tranquil and appealing to the eye, these pieces do not exude the playfulness nor do they pique the viewer’s curiosity as much as the artist’s more interesting works do.

On the whole, the show is an impressive and appealing collection. At her best, Lijoi-Horne offers unusual compositions and lively studies of light and shadow. So pardon TMCC’s dust and pay a visit to the Red Mountain Gallery in October.