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Velvet Tones of Mysterious Light

MALLORY LAKE'S pastels transport us to still corners of an unsettling world. In each work, there is a sense of being deeply alone in intimate spaces enclosed by larger life forces: stark structures infused with deep shadows, luminous hues, and pierced openings - windows, doors, and archways - filled with light or darkness.

Without question, Ms. Lake's artistic emblem is her drive to explore light. And the kind of light she captures is localized: light emanating from a window, being cast on a sidewalk, projected from an alley. This subtle presence works to deepen the contrasts, mood, and sense of expectancy in each place.

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"My focus is on the play of light and creating drama," said this New England artist in a recent phone interview.

Indeed, though her backdrops often contain objects that depict distant lands - Mexican archways, Italian fountains - they are defined by light patterns we have all seen.

From this, a sense of kinship emerges, and the pastels become places to belong to rather than places (like pretty postcards) for escape. "My sense of place has more to do with light and less to do with a familiar location," said Lake, "and that could be anywhere."

Lake says she prefers pastels (especially the handmade French kind), with their color-absorbing, velvety qualities, to oil paint that creates surfaces with shine and reflected light.

And just as this New-England-bred artist puts down pastels to enhance illuminated color, so too does she create architecture to enhance dramatic patterns of light and cast shadow: "I use architectural elements to obstruct the source of light so that it creates a sense of mystery, so the viewer will be pulled to the light source."

In "La Catedral," the artist takes us inside the deep shadows of a heavy, desolate structure. Ancient arches enclose the scene, and the ceiling hovers in blackness, threatening to close in.

And yet ... at the end of this colossal corridor, life is stirring. Faint, violet light infuses distant walls; it has seeped in tiny windows from an unseen source.

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Inside this cold and empty chamber, we find ourselves alone and at one with both intimate warmth and the foreboding unknown, as familiar to us as it is foreign.

We know we have been here before.

But this time, we pay close attention to the deeper connections with the outer world. This time, indeed, we are brushing against a sacred moment in our solo journey.

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