It's this idea of a happy, if somewhat banal fruit — the flavor of ordinary cough drops, the scent of household cleaning supplies — that inspired her to mount Not a Lemon
, an art show at the Scott Ellsworth Gallery
inside the outdoor goods retailer Alite Outpost
's Mission location. The gallery space is tiny, but Dornadic managed to include 50 works, mostly by local artists. (Local in this case encompasses the East Bay and South Bay, which Dornadic, as a San Mateo resident wanted to include, and which are definitely regions more hospitable to happy citrus groves.
While many of the works are quite straightforward exercises in sunny shades of yellow, others go farther. T. Garrett Eaton's forlorn painting of a lemon on a shelf takes the subject matter of a still life and imbues it with an Edward Hopper pathos. An image of two beefy, pierced African-American men sipping the same pitcher of icy lemonade through straws has undeniable erotic undertones but could plausibly be read as ordinary male bonding. Perhaps the cleverest image is Sara Myrup Diamond
's photograph of a Buddha's hand with manicured tips appended to its citron fingers and the title Eightfold Pith
(a reference to Buddhism's Eightfold Path).
Initially, Dornadic had planned on showing 25 or so pieces, it inevitably expanded when people told her that such-and-such wrote a book on lemons, or had done work that was impossible to exclude, curatorially speaking. (There is also work by an artist named Jenny Lemons.)
Dornadic has done shows based around a simple premise before. The most thematically similar effort was Strike Away
, a show she put together with Courtney Cerruti at Paxton Gate Curiosity for Kids
last spring that consisted solely of art made out of matchboxes and matchsticks. It was much larger than Not a Lemon, with 500 pieces by 250 artists mounted on foamcore. (Dornadic called it "insanity," but in a happy sense.)
"I like themed exhibits, because I think when you give artists a couple rules, and they really know how to push them and break them, they do this amazing work that they would never do," she says. "So many people come up to me and say 'Thank you for giving me a homework assignment.'"
Apart from the lemon theme — the name "Not a Lemon" pays homage to Magritte's Surrealist image of a pipe, The Treachery of Images
, with its playfully profound caption "Ceci n'est pas un pipe," or "This is not a pipe" — the only stipulation was size. (But even then, Dornadic was relaxed about policing anyone's artistic license.)
One drawing, of a chubby gerbil, takes the Surrealist nod to its logical endpoint. "This is not a lemon," the caption beneath the rodent reads. "He just looks sour."
Not a Lemon
, through Aug. 14, at the Scott Ellsworth Gallery, in Alite Outpost, 3376 18th St., 415-626-1526.
A bag of lemons is almost like currency in the Bay Area, Alicia Dornadic says. "My grandparents had a lemon tree. We would pick them and squeeze them, and coworkers bring them to work. So many people have lemon stories."