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Posters, playbills and political art

Artists Virginia Pa­­quette, Steven Fogell shine in October openings.

Vintage posters from Italy and France figure large in two art shows opening this weekend.

At Island Gallery, Virginia Paquette’s collaged paintings feature snippets from the Italian street art she collects, while Steven Fogell’s paintings of nightlife at the Playhouse Gallery – a companion show for “Cabaret,” which opens the BPA season Oct. 8 – echo the works of 19th century bohemian poster artist of the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

“I really researched the styles and looks of Lautrec,” Fogell said, “I love the way his paintings look unfinished. You can still see the outline of his sketching on the canvas.”

To achieve the same effect in his images of club performers and dancers – not unlike the denizens of the Kit Kat Klub he has created onstage – Fogell combined acrylic and pastel, laying down a base in the swift-drying paint and then working the surface with pastel.

His interest in art preceded his interest in drama.

“I started with fine art from a young age,” said Fogell, who grew up in Santa Fe, N.M. “My sis and mom were both artists, so the materials were always there.”

The supplies left around the house were professional-level, and having access to top-of-the-line paints and brushes that let Fogell get the effects he wanted helped kindle his enthusiasm for visual art.

While Fogell is more well-known, locally, for taking productions to the Playhouse maintstage than for painting, he points out that both art forms derive from the same wellspring of creativity.

“I don’t see a difference,” he said. “Visual art has always helped me visualize the theater. It’s all about composition, creating some kind of story.”

Old, new

Virginia Paquette found that extended stays in Italy reinforced her instinct to collect antique materials and recycle used ones, like the posters she “harvested” from the kiosks of Rome.

“I very much like to use recycled materials, found objects, things that have been discarded and make something new with them,” said Paquette, who shows her painted collages and jewelry at Island Gallery throughout the month. “I’ve always liked that.”

The local artist uses the reclaimed materials in her diptych collages glued onto wood veneer, while the companion pieces of art jewelry displayed on shelves under the two-dimensional works feature exotic stones.

The double images of the paintings are sensuous and decorative.

One half of each work leans toward the geometric, with right-angled shapes and snippets of Italian from Paquette’s posters, like one collage that features repetitions of “via,” the Italian word for “road.”

The other half of the diptychs are collages of recognizable imagery; in one, a Vatican building is overlaid by a famous image of Che Guevara, the Latin American guerrilla leader and revolutionary theorist who became a hero to the New Left radicals of the 1960s.

Guevara might be more at home in the upscale store than one might suppose.

The gallery, which expanded this year into the adjoining space in the Lundgren Station building, opened in 2002 to sell cloth made by a collective of Indonesian women, who owner Susan Swannack-Nunn worked with.

While Paquette’s two-dimensional work is appealing, her collages are nearly eclipsed by her jewelry, each necklace a work of art in its own right.

Building around clasps that are large cameo-like carvings set in silver – and that she found in Italian flea markets – Paquette strings oversize beads like the red and yellow spheres carved with dragonflies and plants, or exotic stones that include chunks of pale pink kunzite and chips of smoky labradorite that flash blue under the gallery spots.

To Paquette, who also has several commissioned works under way in Seattle, it’s all art.

“I like what I do,” she said. “Making things, whether it’s jewelry, painting or the pieces for public buildings, is deeply satisfying.”

* * * * *

Via and venue

• Island Gallery shows Virginia Paquette’s unique bead constructions and paintings, with jazz music from Bill Smith enlivening the opening 6-8 Oct. 1 at the gallery, located at 106 Madison Ave. in Lundgren Station. Call 780-9500.

• “Venue,” an exhibit featuring acrylic and pastel on canvas by BPA director Steven Fogell at the Playhouse through October. This painting exhibit explores the seductive 1920-1940s backstage world of theatre. For information call 842-1163 or contact sfogell@theplayhouse.org.

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