Horace Williams House—New Zealand transplant Rachel Campbell's paintings offer first-person impressions of local color, wherever "local" happens to be. Now a Durham resident, Campbell's effusive palette serves her bouyantly subjective enterprise, in which the act of painting is recast as a form of journaling. Further Observations of a Resident Alien, currently on view at the Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, welcomes the viewer into Campbell's personal narrative in a series of visual travelogues or memoirs.
Viewers are treated to such works as "The Fabulous Mystery of a Strip Mall at Night," in which Campbell engages in a kind of goofy anthropology, offering a bird's-eye night view of chain retail stores such as Food Lion, Dollar General, Costco, Kroger and an Exxon station. One can just make out the glow of the golden arches in the distance. Campbell includes in this vision a vast congregation of uniform white cars awash in night blue under parking lot lights. No people are seen here, just an affectionate, almost cartoon-like impression that manages to convey the subtle but familiar cultural experience of the strip mall at night.
Atmosphere in these works carries as much weight as architecture, conveyed with the eye of an ex-patriot, someone who views the most humble or mundane aspects of the local environment with the fascination of a tourist. "Couch's Kwik Kar Wash" and "Honey's" uncover minor landmarks as unsung monuments. There's nothing like oil paint to recast the banal into something transcendent, and Campbell uses her considerable skill to communicate a sense of exuberance in the visual discovery of the everyday. —Amy White
The Horace Williams House is open Tuesdays-Fridays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m.