Over the last several years, Regina Scully has staked out a paradoxical place among New Orleans painters. Her mostly abstract canvases suggest visionary landscapes or cities pulsating with life, yet they depict no place in particular and are neither realistic nor representational but instead suggest dreams or mirages bubbling up from our collective memory banks — otherworldly yet vaguely familiar places inflected with hints of surrealism or science fiction. Elemental, the title canvas, lives up to its name. Comprised of fluid ripples of pigment, its rhapsodic forms evoke urban associations not unlike the harmonic contortions of John Coltrane's classic saxophone riffs or the lyrical mysticism of Allen Ginsberg or Walt Whitman's poetry. Here form becomes energy in motion in a landscape of fluid colors with their own subsurface tides that hint at the natural world of rocks and rivers as well as the urban realm of glistening city streets in a time-lapse blur of multiple human trajectories. All of those associations are embedded in our commonly held experiences, and the carefully crafted spaces of the canvas invite the imagination to wander.
The atmosphere is different in Isle, where ethereally floating triangular and wedge-shaped forms hint at the boats and huts of balmy South Pacific islands, only here the effect is calligraphic, with the lyrical fluidity of Japanese scroll paintings. The atmosphere shifts again in Lumeria, which may suggest a frenzied mystical riff in Miles Davis' Bitch's Brew, or perhaps a mythic lost utopia from central Asian folklore. Lunar evokes the pale fabled civilization that the ancients once surmised might exist on the moon, but it is Phases of Matter (pictured) that may provide the most insight into Scully's vision as ambiguously resonant forms appear in a vortex of becoming and receding, a process of manifestation and sublimation that hints at the way humans try to orient themselves in the wild spaces of nature and the imagination, in their eternal quest to finally feel at home in the world. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT
Through Feb. 19
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriard-cimino.com