Margie Criner and Angie Renfro go through ‘Transformations’ at Terzian Galleries | ParkRecord.com

Margie Criner and Angie Renfro go through ‘Transformations’ at Terzian Galleries

Oil painter Angie Renfro says her abstract works, such as “The Aftermath,” which is part of her “(de)construction” floral series, find beauty in the ruins of loss.
Courtesy of Angie Renfro

'Transformation’ Exhibit reception for Angie Renfro and Margie Criner 6-9 p.m., Friday, March 15 Terzian Galleries, 625 Main St. Free terziangalleries.com

Visual artists Margie Criner and Angie Renfro, though working in different mediums, apply the title of their combined Terzian Galleries exhibit, “Transformations,” through similar conceptions of

Criner, an artist that creates three-dimensional work from wood and wool, said her art is the result of figuring out how to make eye-pleasing and interactive art.

“My dad was a mechanical engineer, and he taught me that you can’t make a decision until you understand the whole picture,” Criner said. “By following that ideal, I’m still very comfortable in a problem-solving place, but I’m really good at creating logistical problems.”

Renfro’s approach to her art is similar in that she creates her abstract oil paintings of nature through a “thousands of micro decisions.”

“A brush stroke will work or it won’t, so you are constantly deciding what to change as you go along,” Renfro said. “You can use a different color or a different brush, or you can use a palette knife to get what you want.”

Both artists are set to attend the free reception opening “Transformations” from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, March 13.

Criner’s multimedia journey

Criner combines her training in woodworking, graphic design and science to make detailed and lighted dioramas of narrative miniature sculptures encased in layered wooden boxes that are wrapped in wool.

Her scenes depict family vacations, dreams and lessons learned from her father.

“I like to make things that are universal, and the only way I can do that is to make something personal,” Criner said. “The more I can make something personal, without being too heavy-handed, is when it can appeal to more people.”

One of her early works depicts a car rounding a bend and nearly colliding with a giant chicken.

“This was about a road trip we took where we went to the Rocky Mountains,” Criner said with a laugh. “We were going up the mountain and learned the road was closed. So we had to turn the trailer and wagon around on this narrow road, and my mother started screaming that we were all going to die.”

Criner didn’t pinpoint where the idea came from until she started working on the piece and the the memory kicked in.

“I have found if I plan a work too hard, the idea will fall to pieces,” she said. “So, if I let the process stay organic, the work will take its own form.”

Another of Criner’s pieces featured in “Transformations” is titled “Sanctuary.”

The scene shows a 1986 record store, and the outer shell looks like a hive, which was inspired by the shape of a vinyl album.

“The piece is about how would immerse myself in music and spend all my part-time paychecks at the record store,” Criner said with a laugh. “It’s a place I went to where I felt understood and accepted. I would buy music by Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire and Big Country.”

The wood used is sourced from Criner’s friends who build instruments. Her favorites are walnut and wenge, but she also works with maple, limba and rosewood.

“I used to share a studio with a guy who built custom acoustic guitars and a guy who built electric bass guitars,” she said. “I would get all their scraps, because they didn’t want to throw anything away. Even though we now have our own studios, I still visit them to pick up some wood.”

Criner’s love of woodworking came from observing her father.

“He had a wood shop in the basement, and I would go down and watch him work,” she said. “I also made some wooden toys to play with.”

The artist studied textile design at Michigan State University,where she learned the science of making plastics.

After graduation, Criner worked in graphic design.

“I missed touching the work, so I took a furniture design class,” Criner said. “It was all about hand-chiseling, dovetailing with no power tools.”

After finishing the class, Criner began working on miniature items out of wood.

“Then, in an ‘a-ha’ moment, I decided to combine everything I knew to make impractical things,” she said with a laugh. “I went from making functional items to something that only functions as art.”

Criner likes how the wood and wool work together in her “impractical” pieces.

“The wool is very textured and the wood is smooth and takes the (finishing) oil well,” she said. “I don’t stain the wood. I want it to speak for itself.”

For information, visit margiecriner.com.

Renfro’s new approach

After years of painting representational art, Angie Renfro has decided to go abstract a couple of years ago.

Her “(de)constructive” series is a collection of floral paintings created in a “negative space,” she says.

“I wanted a way to process some emotions, without the limitation of representation, to get back to enjoying the process of painting,” Renfro said. “I wanted to allow myself to follow my own instincts.”

The artist said the paintings are personal explorations of finding beauty in the aftermath of loss.

“They are like explosions for me,” Renfro said. “Sometimes in life, things just blow up, and you have to pick up the pieces to make something beautiful again. With this series, I found bits of nature, and then tore them apart and created compositions.”

Renfro welcomed the challenge of that approach.

“There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with painting in an abstract way,” she said. “It’s about trusting myself along the way while I’m doing it, and that’s scary for me.”

Her works are composed of layers of oil paint.

“If you look at them closely, you can see how the layers show I tore things apart and put them back together through paint,” she said. “One challenge was in trusting that, ultimately, I would create something that I felt was complete.”

The creative process was also different for Renfro on these pieces.

“Formerly I started with an idea and image and would recreate that image; I knew what it was going to look like,” she said, “With these, I start with an idea and intention, but I really have no idea of what it’s going to look like.”

By doing that, Renfro created a new dynamic in her process.

“Sometimes I’d get to a point of uncertainty where I will think what I’m doing is just garbage and not know what I’m doing,” she said. “But then I knew I’d have to forge ahead and trust that I’m going to be able to fix it.”

One reason Renfro uses oils is because the paints take a while to dry, giving her more room to refine the image.

“There is more freedom in that, and when I do something, I like to work and rework something over and over again,” she said. “When you work with acrylic, the window is so short because they dry so quickly.”

Renfro also enjoys the texture of oils.

“There’s a thickness to them, and there are times when it feels like I’m sculpting something,” she said. “I will sometimes use a palette knife when I apply the oil to the panel.”

Finishing a painting is just an intuition, Renfro said.

“When they feel satisfying to me in a particular moment, I will stop, because I could keep going,” she said. “I need to stop for the sake of not going insane, working on a single painting.”

Renfro has been painting ever since she was 9. Before that, she loved to color.

“I would actually draw my own coloring books because I was dissatisfied with the coloring books I had,” she said. “My parents recognized my interest, and they put me into painting classes.”

For information, visit angierenfro.com.