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Joanna Salska 

When: March 1-April 20 2013
Price: free

The image of a cracked or otherwise disfigured doll's head has all the makings of heavy-handed symbolism or a superstitious omen. But in the large, oil-on-Masonite paintings by Poland-born artist Joanna Salska, now at Studio Quercus, they manage to function more subtly -- as the artist puts it, "intuitively exploring the experiences and scars accumulated as we travel throughout our lives." Nearly every work in the exhibition features this type of subject, which is as repulsive as it is compelling, enlivened by sensuous application of paint. Salska takes special care with her dolls' eyes, lips, and skin tones, employing a vivid palette of blues and reds to produce an uncannily human appearance. Indeed, one of the more intriguing questions raised by this selection of pictures is its relationship to portraiture. Salska has, in fact, now begun painting people, too. The success of her peopled works will surely be measured against those of her dolls. Joanna Salska runs through April 20 at Studio Quercus (385 26th St., Oakland). 510-452-4670 or StudioQuercus.com

— Alex Bigman

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