By Jeff Mahoney, The Spectator, June 1, 1990.
Julie Donec’s upcoming show at the Planetree Gallery is a swing in a comet tail, a magic carpet ride, a colorful carousel. Blink, and when you open your eyes, childhood unfolds before them.
The exhibition, called Children’s Stories, is a collection of the artist’s recent drawings and painting celebrating make-believe and the world of children. It opens Sunday, with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m.
“I like telling stories with pictures,” says Ms Donec.
And that she does. There is the Sprite and the Katydid, a miniature marvel of close inspection in which one can almost see the artist pressing her eye up against a microscopic world of emerald fairies and bottle-green bugs.
Then there are the seven brothers flying across the surface of another painting on thief magical stick horse.
“They’re on an adventure, and the stick horse is their getaway vehicle,” says Ms Donec, who writes stories in which the situations in her pictures occur. “My inspiration in the seven brothers picture was the old picture book, Ping, Duck of the Yangtze. The drawings in that book have a simple quality that I like.”
Her own paintings and drawings are remarkably detailed and technically exacting. But it is a tribute to Ms Donec’s artistry that she preserves that simple quality though all the difficult flourishes.
For instance, one of the best pieces in the show is an elaborate painting of a woman in an exotically embroidered dress and a hood, sitting on a damask couch sewing a shawl. It is rich with detail yet it doesn’t seem cluttered. The painting has a jewel-like luminescence, ad the effect is of a scene from an old fable or fairy tale.
It is actually one of series of paintings and drawings based on the song Do-Re-Mi. The title of the painting of the sewing woman is Sew, A Needle Pulling Thread.
In her drawing King of Rooster Alley, Ms Donec depicts a young boy and a cat being spilled out of the bed into another world, a la The Wizard of Ox. The context of the drawing is Ms Donec’s story about a young boy who resents being told to do things he doesn’t want to do.
“So his world turns upside down (this is the scene the drawing illustrates) and all of a sudden what he says goes,” she explains.
The falling cat, with its eyes popping in fear and its nails retracted, is priceless, one of the best things in the show.