A golden-haired girl in a wooden swing sweeps across a lush landscape animated by vivid colors: turquoise skies with gauzy white clouds, horses with thick auburn manes flying behind them, a meadow so green you can almost smell the new grass. The canvas is dizzying, stretching nearly ten feet wide and four feet high. But the dreamlike idyll of Through Verna’s Window dissipates when you spot the jagged trio of rumbling volcanoes behind the swinging child, the sharp-toothed fox stalking her, the deep water rushing beneath her bare feet, and Verna, somber and still, looking on.

“A fancy-free Crayola time it may appear to be, but things aren’t all so wonderful,” says the work’s painter, Mary-Glynn Boies. “There are dangers for her, for all of us. My paintings are about sisterhood, about things between women.”

Astute about her composition yet intuitive in her creative process, Boies allows her human subjects, all of them female, a life of their own. They take form and change form, hide and reemerge. She says the paintings inform her when they are finally finished.

Boies often ponders the meaning of a work only after it is completed, but adds that clues to the meaning can be found in her own life. “Things happen over the years. It all appears.” God-Mother, for instance, may relate to travels with her daughter, whose departure two years ago for college had a profound effect on her. “Driving through the rural midwestern countryside, we came around a turn and spotted a woman standing in a cemetery singing at the top of her lungs.” This painting shows the torso of a nude woman on a pedestal, singing. Singing women appear in other works as well. “What are they singing? Songs of praise,” Boies asserts.

Fairy tales and feminine imagery find form in Narrow Escape. Beneath a golden sky pasted with the kind of shiny gold stars children earn for their schoolwork, a girl flees from a pair of cottages across a yard full of flowers and furniture toward the abrupt edge of a waterfall, where a fox hides beneath the swirling waters. “She wanted to be a princess,” says Boies. “Remember when everyone wanted to be a princess? In a way, that’s very precious. But it’s atavistic, one-dimensional. She is escaping that, but what she is escaping to is also very dangerous. It’s a long hard journey to make it to the cemetery to sing.”

A selection of works by Mary-Glynn Boies is now showing at Kay Garvey Gallery, 230 W. Superior. Hours are 11 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. Call 440-0522 for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Loren Santow.