by Kirby Congdon…….
Taking a second look at someone’s art work often helps you access it. I have had several looks at the watercolors of Martha de Poo and am invariably delighted with their elan, their spontaneity and easy skill. At least it looks easy. In a century of intense technology on the back of our wrists, it is a relief to let go and live for a while in someone else’s imagination. Ms. de Poo’s subjects are familiar enough. A pervasive light permeates the structure of comfortable small-town houses. A scattering of tropical leaves and the casual streets of daily life make you wish you were back in little old Key West when you realize that, yes, that’s where you are.
The important thing, however, is that this series of work is more that souvenir postal cards enlarged to gallery size. They hold your attention by their professional and self confident technique. As you look that technique subtly reveals itself. That cozy bush is a splatter of blobs that let you know that it is a living bush. Then you see that the depth of the leaves disappear into small blasts of purple. The soft shadow of a fully-grown palm tree casts its shade across the street. You finally realize that there is no palm tree there because the real tree is a couple of yards beyond the right hand edge of the picture frame.
A delivery truck, in its haste, did not park parallel to the curb. Obviously, the driver popped into a building there for a moment and didn’t even shut the motor off. I wanted to see where he went, who he is and what he’s delivering but he never came back out. You could tell that the heat of noon was already getting hot and if he did come out he had his errands to do. Still, you wanted to ask, did Martha de Poo say hello to him between brush strokes? But a still life of a busy town remains what it is: a still life.
Here and there Ms. de Poo plays with abstraction. You see that the arrangement of house roofs up there filling in a corner is actually an abstract geometrical construction almost in three dimensions with Victorian gingerbread depicted with deft dashes. A front wheel of a bicycle has normal spokes. The back wheel has spokes too but its wheel is orange. Orange? Well, you look again and a perfectly ordinary newspaper dispenser is about three feet beyond that side of the bike. Of course it’s orange or they used to be. A sign advertises itself. It just happens to fill up the same space on the paper as those spokes did.
In another picture two telephone wires cross the breadth of the frame from one side to the other. No explanation. Who is surprised by two black lines criss-crossing an entire art work? Well, not in de Poo’s world where stable reality has gone, oh, just the tiniest bit, not absolutely, coo-coo. Can she hear us nervously laugh? Oh, I hope so!
I saw Ms. de Poo’s work in the halls of Julie McCarran’s dental establishment in town here. Is that why I can’t remember even having a toothache since I have had her take care of me? I often wonder about the effect of the psychosomatic world.