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Remembering Nancy 

New abstract exhibit by five artists recalls works of Nancy Tokar Miller

The late Nancy Tokar Miller,

painter of marvelous abstracted landscapes, was the inspiration for a new show at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at Pima Community College West Campus.

"Breaking Down Surface Tension," an exhibition of work by five artists, had its genesis in conversations curator David Andres had with Tokar Miller, a close friend, before her death in 2014. They used to talk about the "abstract art movements of the '50s, '60s and '70s that spoke about flatness and juxtaposing medias," Andres writes.

All five of the artists in the show use "tension"—in the form of textures or layers or passages of light and dark—to entice the viewer's eye across the surface of the work.

Local painter David Longwell layers thick impasto paints over rapidly sketched drawings in paintings like "Speedway Boogie-Woogie," a delicious abstracted aerial view of Tucson's urban topography. Innovative printmaker Katey Monaghan uses discarded metal washers—those round metal discs so beloved of plumbers—to imprint rusty circles on paper. And like Longwell, Kathleen Velo also looks into local geography, by making underwater photos of the Southwest's water basins and rare streams. She works at night, illuminating the water in the dark. Mark Pack goes topographic, layering his acrylics so thickly that they look a bit like 3D maps.

Rebecca Crowell, a Wisconsin artist whose local connection is the MFA she earned at ASU, just returned home from a residency in Ireland. In her new paintings, including "Créide Field," she uses "memory mapping" to make abstractions of the Irish countryside, as Tokar Miller once did of Spanish, Thai and Hawaiian landscapes. Crowell conjures up—in colors faint and subtle—the bogs, rocks and oh-so-green flora of the Ould Sod.

The show is up through March 13, but if you make tracks, you can meet the artists at a reception at the gallery today, Thursday, Feb. 12, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Rebecca Crowell gives a lecture in the nearby Recital Hall at 6:30 p.m. The gallery is at the Pima West Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road.

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