exhibition of oil paintings

Below the Sea, Au Bord de la Mer
at the Academy Gallery

Dona Simons' painting
in Henry Clews' studio

Dona Simons painting
at New Orleans aquarium

Do you want to look into a dream?

Dona Simons' evocative oil paintings at the Academy Gallery present two dreamlike settings, one a castle by the Mediterranean sea and the other an undersea world of sea anemones and corals.

Included in this exhibition are paintings Simons conceived on an artist residency in the south of France. American sculptor Henry Clews built a castle on existing ruins in 1918. Passing through the front door, under a stone lintel inscribed "Once upon a time...," one enters a fairy tale world inhabited by Clews' fantastic sculptures. The privilege to paint in a spectacular castle-by-the-seashore, the influence of Henry Clews, the peach colored light of the Cote d'Azur and French paints in luminous colors, all came together to inspire Simons' work.

Back on this side of the Atlantic, Dona Simons finds painting aquariums to be an inspired form of meditation. She has created paintings at aquariums in New Orleans and previously in Curaçao. Her vivid portrayals of sea anemones emphasize their qualities of beauty and danger. Undersea sirens who, with their sensual movement and lush colors, attract and then sting to death. They are fleshy and yet their jeweled colors are far from fleshlike. They give life to the skin of our wildest dreams.

Simons has painted aquarium scenes, capturing the light filtering through the water to the fish and corals, in intricate realistic detail. At one point, her passion for Louisiana music found its way into her work and she began to include contemporary musicians performing in undersea settings. The undersea environment became Simons' visual metaphor for her city of New Orleans - well before Hurricane Katrina. Because of the paintings of New Orleans musicians performing underwater, an art critic at French newspaper Nice Matin later labeled Simons, "without doubt visionary."

Interpreting these spectacular environments, one constant objective of Simons' work is to create a sense of complete immersion, each painting a world that people can step into and look out from.

Read a statement about Dona's residency in France

Entrance to Dona Simons website

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