Kinetic Gallery exhibit explores animal behavior through color

Rich in color, detail and innovation, Christie Lau’s technique invokes life and nature into her visual art pieces. Her work is featured in the Kinetic Gallery exhibit “Secret Rhythm,” which opened on Jan. 31.“Secret Rhythm” is an exhibit of several series of Lau’s paintings and prints, all sharing a common theme of what Lau refers to as “trends” in biology and evolution. These trends refer to all the particular traits and habits animals have developed in order to sustain life. “It all goes toward the same rhythm,” Lau said. “Evolution has a general trend, and that is to have life. We all do things in specific ways. But it’s all for the same reason.” The formal elements of Lau’s style come together most clearly in her “Deception” series. Inspired by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” the “Deception” paintings depict organisms that thrive by tricking the rest of the natural world. To exemplify this concept, her painting “Odette III” includes a bee orchid, a flower that generates artificial pollinator pheromones to attract pollinators, in the foreground. Lau also explores secondary sex characteristics in her series “Sexy Males,” featuring the extravagant painting “Mane Robe.” This painting features a male lion’s face with a mane of blue, using variation in shade from bright to almost black to provide texture. Interspersed throughout the mane are streaks of gold, calling attention to the aesthetic qualities of the lion’s sex and making viewers aware of their fascination with it. Lau’s print series “Doe” shows the female side of secondary sex characteristics in a more fantastical than scientific way. In this series, female deer are depicted on wood blocks with human hands growing from their heads, signifying a purpose that goes beyond competition, in contrast to antlers. Lau’s works employ copious layers of color that give her subjects a unique complexity. Quintessential to her coloring style, her piece “Odette II” employs a middle-to-dark selection of reds, yellows, blues and purples to create a shadow on the highly textured body of a white swan. “I like to focus on details,” Lau said. “I took a traditional painting class, and we worked with raw pigments so I got to see the pigments as they are … I became really interested in collecting obscure pigments, and pigments that are different.” Lau is from Toronto and went to college at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. According to Lau, Carnegie Mellon’s arts programs do not teach technique as much as they promote innovation, and it was at this university that she learned to experiment with art styles, especially with color. “Secret Rhythm” will be on display in the Kinetic Gallery until Feb. 28.