An outer space fantasy world in mixed-media

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by Eric Ginsburg

If there is a club in outer space for octopi, “Azureous Bubble Bath” is it.

The mixed-media work by Tracy Lindenthal, part of a set called Alien Landscapes now on display at the Delta Arts Center in Winston-Salem, glows in aqua, blue and purple. The hues would be fitting for a lounge in a Miami club, and the whole vibe evokes Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test at the bottom of the ocean.

A tentacle protrudes from the water near the center of the piece, between what looks like an agave plant and a mollusk stuffed with clams. Maybe Lindenthal vacationed in Atlantis — the real one, not the Florida knock-off — and left inspired.

It’s like Alice unlocked a portal to a bathhouse in Wonderland.

All of Lindenthal’s pieces in Alien Landscapes are trippy portraits of another dimension where beauty emanates from the science fiction-y outposts of the landscape. The mostly lifeless kingdoms contain some movement, and one even shows a large, perched bird.

But for the most part, an underwater equivalent of tumbleweeds drifting through any of the pieces wouldn’t be out of place. The monotone hum of the overhead florescent lights in the gallery prove to be a fitting, droning soundtrack.

It wouldn’t have been surprising to see tumbleweeds in the Delta Arts Center either, a quiet, unassuming place on New Walkertown Road that is ideal for private viewing and introspection.

The receptionist seemed almost surprised that someone showed up in the middle of a weekday, asking if I knew Lindenthal or her husband. Still, several people had signed the visitor log the day before, indicating there is more traffic through the space than it might appear.

DSC09947The most captivating piece in Lindenthal’s set may be the aptly named “Jelly Babies,” where several jellyfish-esque blobs appear to be lifting upwards like floating lanterns or chandeliers. If the Death Star dove underwater and joined the good guys in Ferngully, it might look like this. The green and yellow jellies could also function as earrings, with dangling pendants that swish and sparkle.

There are several elements of “Purple Nurple” that could indeed be considered nurples, but pillars covered in purple shingles and a drooping, oozing white mess like melted frosting draw the eye more readily. In the background, an orb sits atop what could be a spire of skulls.

The whole scene belongs in Candyland with what look like scattered plumes of cotton candy, though another piece, “Planet Caramel” may more intentionally resemble dessert. Bespeckled soft-serve ice cream lines the middle of the piece, which with a few exceptions could be a cross between Utah and the Badlands. A tree limb drooping like a willow hangs in the foreground, sprouting black berries just like a plant in “Septors Secret Passage.”

A river spills from the ominous passageway, draped with otherworldly flora, and could function well as a lair for a futuristic version of Austin Powers. Alien-made Kinder eggs appear ready to blossom in the foreground and a ridge seems to be casually emitting sperm. It fits well with the fantastical elements consistent throughout the show.

The most out of step may be “Crystalline Shore,” which is still similarly impressive. Aspects recall Gaudi’s bulbous, quasi-natural shapes and vivid color, as well as his ornate, sky-reaching turrets. The spears jut out of a black bay, littering a harbor like buoys.

The simplicity and solitude of Delta Arts Center proved to be a fitting set for her work too, allowing visitors to disappear into the visual representations of Lindenthal’s imagination uninterrupted.DSC09948