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The Herald Mail, Hagerstown, MD; 2002

In Her Dreams

Artist Finds Inspiration With Her Eyes Closed

By Kevin Clapp

Dreams are a fluid state that drown the mind in a torrent of ideas before slipping away at the first sign of coherence.

Hard to remember, the fleeting memories of a dream are difficult enough to make sense of individually, never mind sharing them with a confidante.

But for Irene Gennaro, the images that seek her out in dreams are a way of life

In The Responsibility of Dreams the New York-based artist shares with her audience those figures that spring forth from her imagination to assume vibrant life from blocks of wood.

"It is accessible if people will open themselves up to it and are receptive to what they see," Gennaro, 59, says. "There's room for interpretation and it may be very good not to say much about individual pieces and let viewers make that association and take their own trip with the pieces."

Through Sunday June 9, visitors to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts' Kerstein Gallery will have ample opportunity to discover Gennaro's unique, colorful vision.

Born out of her visions, the show's 17 pieces range from free-standing pillars of bright blues, greens and oranges to several winged creatures that appear to float along gallery walls, captured in mid flight.

Museum Director Jean Woods discovered Gennaro's work at a series of New York shows and a stroll around the Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton N.J. Struck by her form and presentation Woods knew she had an exhibit on her hands that could challenge young and old alike.

"It's a very tactile subject," Woods says. "People like to look at sculpture, the three dimensional aspect to it, and sometimes people react more to sculpture than to a painting on a wall."

A sculptor since 1972, Gennaro sketches her ideas before deciding which will be fully realized in wood and paint.

Some, like this show's Shape-Shifter have been rendered exactly as they initially appeared to the artist in thought.

With their bright colors and flowing shapes Woods thinks the exhibit will be particularly attractive to children. The goal is for Gennaro's work to pry open viewers' imaginations.

"Some of the pieces in her show are really lyrical," Woods says, citing the 1997 wall piece Garden of Augurs, which features several winged figures against a garden background.

"It's such an exotic piece," she says "It takes you into a tropical garden. That's what it reminds me of. It takes me right into that feeling."

A few days before the exibit's late April opening, associate curator Amy Metzger toiled away in the Kerstein Gallery. Assembling the show began in late summer 2000 with sculpture selection and now was the time to arrange pieces in the gallery.

The task is harder than slapping a few hangers along the walls

"Because I knew they were so colorful, I wanted people to be able to take their time looking at the pieces. I didn't want to select too many pieces and make it seem cluttered or overcrowded," Metzger says.

"I think it's really interesting how she has said she comes up with these things in her dreams and daydreams.

Looking around the room, everything is very fantastical and vivid, and I think that adds a different aspect.

"When you look at the work and realize that's where she's drawing her inspiration from, I think that adds something to the experience, knowing she's come up with these through her dreams."