Teri Dryden, “Postcards From Japan” Mixed media on paper, 4.5x7in

“Yutori” – New work created at Shiro Oni Studio, Onishi, Japan

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Yutori is a Japanese concept without a direct correlative in either the English language or Western culture in general, although one explanation found online is, “…a subjective sense of well-being in daily life.” That the sentence seems so straightforward virtually guarantees it misses capturing the full meaning of the word, and that it requires so many sentences to even try discovers the heart of Teri Dryden’s new exhibit at B. Deemer Gallery.

Dryden’s fall 2018 Shiro Oni residency has proven to be such a catalyst for change in her work, which should come as no surprise to those who have followed her since she arrived in Louisville 10 years ago. A trip through European cities gave her raw material for her collages in the form of the remnants of posters promoting events that had long since passed on. After a period devoted to painting, Onishi has prompted a return to collage techniques for Dryden, juxtaposed with marks that are filled with the flavor of her Japanese experience. Dryden seeks inspiration externally, from her environments.

There are several large canvases here that feel related to the work that preceded Onishi, deeply felt color and ample textures suggestive of aging surfaces, but even here there is a difference in the clarity of her composition.

Yet we also find a range of smaller pieces atypical for this artist, small collages that sacrifice none of Dryden’s density in their diminutive scale, and almost tiny gestural drawings evocative of Asian brushwork. Did the mountainous landscape surrounding Onishi encourage a greater introspection on to Dryden’s meticulous craftsmanship? The third dimension has also been introduced, in delicately constructed paper “sake boxes.”

Teri Dryden, “Chopsticks”, mixed media on panel, 5x5in

“Chop Sticks” is as compact as they come, a 5-inch square in which Dryden’s sense of composition is pushed to a new level of decision and economy. Two (or is it three?) pieces of paper overlap and then plays host to a handful of black marks. The minimalist arrangement must be limited to suggestion, and while we are accustomed to abstraction from this artist, it usually plays out in greater complexity and across broader visual fields. In “Kanagawa River” we find that compositional complexity fighting to emerge in a similarly modest scale piece, and one cannot help but marvel at the simple, exquisite balance of harmony and tension in the visual communication at play here.

Not content with isolating such diminutive pieces, they are grouped together in the exhibit, families of children placed between the larger paintings that are their parents. Dryden has even placed several in an accordion book called “Postcards from Japan.” There is a note of levity in that title, but it also points to healthy preoccupation in all of this work. Japan doesn’t just happen to be an influence here, it is THE influence. It has, for now at least, consumed her creative spirit and stilled the restlessness found in her previous work. It is a quality that may only now, in retrospect, come into focus in comparison to the Onishi body of collages and paintings.

Unless I miss my guess, whatever peace Dryden has brought to her practice and the resulting images are her own yutori. Words are inadequate, and the images must speak for themselves.

Teri Dryden, “Sake Box #6”, Collage box, 4.5x10in


“Yutori” – New work created at Shiro Oni Studio, Onishi, Japan 

Teri Dryden

February 9 – March 12, 2019

Monday – Friday 10am – 5:30pm
Saturday 10am – 3pm

B. Deemer Gallery
2650 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 896-6687




Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.



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