The work for this exhibition began after I read The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim. His analysis of the common fairy tale inspired me to explore the stories and experience their engaging arc of mystery and surprise. In these tales, objects and beings are not as they usually appear; grandma has huge teeth, a bottle contains a genie, a goose can suddenly produce a glimmering, golden egg.

I began to work from these stories, presenting the essential thread of each tale and its outcome in a series of paintings in oil on panel, watercolor on paper, and porcelain ceramics. As I worked, I kept seeing connections in disparate sources: the poetry and paintings of William Blake, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, the elegantly illustrated Indian epic, The Ramayana. I revisited The Odyssey and The Iliad and saw the same dramatic metaphors in play.

The paintings present the essential arc of the story in shapes, objects, animals and body parts in a charged tumble of color. Evil and virtue peek out of piles of evocative shapes and the struggle that is present in every myth and epic is condensed on the picture plane. This is an abstracted vision of “once upon a time.”

The porcelain ceramics in the exhibit are brightly glazed in keeping with the enchanted theme. These works are named for a myriad of characters in myths and fairy tales. Each piece is covered with knobs and protuberances that suggest faces and parts of animals but on second glance could simply be gestures in the clay.

Together these works examine the concept of storytelling while abstracting and re-contextualizing the humor and fright of enchantment.

—Elizabeth Strasser