OURAY – One half of Dreamtime Gallery & Studio, Ouray’s newest art gallery, is filled with naïve folk art from Africa. The other half features paintings and masks by the gallery’s owners, Lizelle Marais and Jeff Reznikoff.
A week after opening, Marais, her eight-month-old baby girl on her hip, explained the term naïve: “It’s not the American notion of ‘childlike,’ but more the original French meaning of ‘natural.’”
Marais is from South Africa. She was introduced to folk art through her father, who began collecting colorful, animal-centric naïve paintings, in particular a style called Tingatinga, after its Tanzanian originator, Edmund Tingatinga. The paintings Marais has brought to Ouray are all by first-generation apprentices to Tingatinga, Marais explained. The man himself was shot by police in a case of mistaken identity. But his co-op has trained thousands of artists in the brightly stylized, sometimes humorous canvases. Marais began bringing the paintings to the U.S. herself following visits to see family. They have proven so popular, she said, now she will have to look into having more of them shipped over. She and Reznikoff are pleased to “be supporting artists we know over there.”
Their own art has mythic/primitive elements, as well. Marais studied mythology in Santa Barbara, where she and Reznikoff met. Her wall-hanging “Gaia” depicts oceans and continents, painted on a mask face. His large paintings recall a dreamlike Marc Chagall, with touches of Chauvet cave paintings.
The couple moved to Ouray four years ago. Marais had wanted to return to Santa Fe, where she produced some Georgia O’Keefe-influenced landscapes. Reznikoff, who had been working in Los Angeles, wanted more trees. Colorado was ideal middle ground, Marais said. “I couldn’t do the big city. I grew up in a little mountain town like this in South Africa. This was the perfect compromise.”
Dreamtime Gallery is open Monday-Thursday 11 to 6 p.m. and by appointment. The gallery’s website (dreamtimearts.org) is still under construction, but has photos of some of the pieces on the walls in Ouray.