Women" By D. Eric Bookhardt
Weekly, New Orleans April 13, 1993, page 28
because we live in a transitory time for women and their roles,
there have of late been numerous art shows focusing on the
female persona. What all this means is anyone's guess, but
a four-person expo at Hall-Barnett is one of the more intriguing
exhibitions to be seen about town.
Mysterious and vaguely familiar are John Preble's paintings,
smallish canvasses of copper toned damsels of color, tightly
cropped heads with eerily dispassionate demeanors. Almost
deadpan, they stare like witnesses in veiled appraisal. And
they appear to be looking right at us. Not quite accusing,
they stare mutely, insouciantly insinuating that they have
seen it, whatever it is. As though the truth cannot be hidden,
not at all, because they know. And though they are not saying,
their silence speaks volumes, a soft monotone of silence that
Of course monotones can also be monotonous. Still, if one
plays a simple song of a few notes, simplicity hardly matters
if it is haunting. And these are. While interest might be
aided by more variety, Preble's monomania is both a weakness
and a strength.
Alarming Women" by D. Eric Bookhardt
Gambit Weekly, New Orleans January 25, 1994 page 85
is currently showing at Hall-Barnett. Preble's pictures perpetually
rotate, however, purchased off the walls by cash-and-carry
art buffs. But if the show is always changing, most of his
images at least share certain traits. Preble is inspired by
what he calls the "green-eyed people," those descended
from quadroon pleasure places run by the Creole French in
19th century St. Tammany Parish.
by the exotic aura of the tawny-skinned, green-eyed women
of one such community near his studio, he, being a painter,
proceeded to paint them.
Most are straight-up, head and shoulders portraits that face
the viewer frontally, with disarming presence. They are rendered
simply, in the dusky hues of a century and a half ago, shades
of mocha, burnt orange and ripe avocado. And Preble's women
are complex and multi-layered. But unlike other artists, Preble
does not invest his subjects with quivering, overwrought intensity
or tortuous torrents of angst.
Preble's Creoles lack intensity – far from it – but theirs
is of a different modality. Self-possessed yet ironically
bemused, their pale eyes are luminous with secret knowledge.
In this they are one, despite being many. The eyes return
our gaze with candid appraisal, even as their secrets remain
safe behind the wary half-smile of an Afro-Caribbean Mona
Lisa. Preble's Creoles express a singular vision of women
as earthly vessels of some eternally protean portent – flash
of infinity just beyond the diaphanous veil of shadows.