Over and Above

This city can be full of wonder for the newcomer or the native, a neon-drenched metropolis offering plenty of eye candies. But once the allure of bright-green downtown skyscrapers wears off, the sights are replaced by the overwhelming smell of the Trinity River. Still, within the towers and other man-made artifacts are influences and inspirations that don't appear at first glance, that don't in fact appear in nature, but that are grand vistas of steel and cement, ready for artistic exploitation.

Wanda Lou Raymond once concerned herself with more natural landscapes but recently turned to her more immediate urban surroundings, Dallas. In her master's thesis exhibit, Downtown Dallas: Views From Above, she expresses the city with the same principles and concepts as the architects responsible for designing it.

"I'm more interested in the formal aspects of painting rather than the sociological," Raymond says. "I'm trying to get a good, dynamic composition...For any cityscape, there is an effect of exhilaration and excitement when a person is at an elevated angle. The city is also beautiful, especially at night. There are many light sources and reflected lights that can be used to enhance a composition. The buildings themselves are ready-made cubistic elements to be used in an unlimited number of combinations. These solid rectangles can be grouped together at different levels of abstraction."

Not to completely trump sensitive artist stereotypes, Raymond has also included a little bit of feeling in the Descartes-style dissection that she uses in her cityscapes. "There is a bit of tension in height, and that is one of the reasons I started doing this," she says. Her perspectives tend to be about from the 40-story level because "that's about as high as [the buildings I can get access to] go...I get a little nervous if I get much higher than that." Excitement, tension and nervousness: It sounds like she's captured it.

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Mark Hughes