Lockhart artist assails 'urban assault'

Olive Ayhens' artist's statement claims, "Color is my first language." This proclamation is clearly represented in her exhibit, "Perilous Worlds of Olive Ayhens," currently on display in the Lockhart Gallery.

"Perilous Worlds" consists primarily of oil paintings portraying New York City skyscrapers expressively abstracted with color and pattern. The dreamlike landscapes take a birds-eye view and contain so much activity and detail that one's head is dizzy after looking at just one of her "Where's Waldo"-like paintings.

Ayhens' "Urban Strata" towers over the viewer at no less than six feet. After taking a step back, images of endless escalators, colorful cars and larger-than-life armed soldiers all fit inside the glass walls of a shopping mall.

In "Lamb," painted in 2006, a dead lamb rests on a couch in the foreground. Surrounding the animal are coffins of soldiers draped with the American flag, a swimming pool, potted trees and a table covered with computers, telephones and exaggerated amounts of tangled wires.

Her intentions become clearer when reading her artist's statement: "I am very concerned about the fragility of our planet and the possibility that humans have brought the sphere of life to the brink of disaster." These concerns are expressed most blatantly in "Skyscrapers in Yellowstone," in which buffalo graze on dirt which backs into huge skyscrapers. A waterfall plunges to the ground parallel to the Empire State Building, watched over by mountains and a smoggy sky. It is clear that she feels that nature is facing "urban assault."

Ayhens is a San Francisco native who moved to New York City over 10 years ago. This colorful, dizzying world is her view of New York, giving us a chance to see the city through her eyes, in all of its colorfulness and complexity.

Ayhens' exhibit will be on display in the Lockhart Gallery until Saturday, March 29 and is free and open to the public.