Art review: Louanne LaRoche's exhibit focuses on people and relationships

Special to Lowcountry LifeApril 20, 2012 

Camellia Art Gallery on Hilton Head Island features the new work of Lowcountry artist Louanne LaRoche in an exhibit titled "An Intimate Gaze," a remarkably fresh collection of paintings and drawings that will stop you in your tracks.

LaRoche's work is teeming with energy, color and texture. In a word, it is stunning.

I have grown to anticipate her work and found that this latest collection is even stronger and delivered with riotous, audacious color and high energy. LaRoche takes an artistic stand and does not backpedal as she determines her approach and adheres to her source, context, image, expression, gesture and content.

LaRoche's paintings and drawings have always been laced with references to or about people and relationships. In this collection -- dotted with new images, colors, applications and textures -- she expands her special spin.

Prepare yourself for more focus on a broader spectrum of her people, her places and her things. There are figurative pieces, there are landscapes, there are garden settings, even a still-life -- and all are taken to the top.

A defining characteristic, when we consider LaRoche's body of work over time, is that she is an amazing colorist. She uses colors we might expect to find in a glass jar of brilliantly mixed jelly beans. Her blues are famously definitive, as are her pinks and fuchsias.

Imagine our delight in taking in her collection as we started at "Hemingway's Retreat," a jaw-dropping atmospheric piece in mixed medium, and continued on to "Pinckney Island," also mixed media. "Big Mama," a hound dog caught mid-stride, caught our eye. The paintings were phenomenal, and the images offered new direction and were so varied.

LaRoche has been a presence in the artistic community of Hilton Head for several decades. She had an early beginning as the owner of the Red Piano Art Gallery from 1980 to 1995, and her career continues to evolve. Her work has been featured in important exhibits throughout the country and can be found in permanent collections such as The Harvard Business School, Carnegie Mellon University, The National Collection of Kenya and United States Steel. Her artwork also is in the private collections of Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Leakey and John Mellencamp.

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