It’s hard to believe Cianna Valley is an emerging artist, given her technically accomplished work and cohesive, distinct vision. Valley, a 2011 graduate of the California College of Art, is showing work at WPG that shows a level of sophistication that seems rare at this stage.Valley’s mostly monochrome aquatints and dioramas deal with the theme of childhood memory and at first glance, seem dark. They evoke the mood of a gothic but slightly whimsical 19th century novel, complete with hidden faces, pale ladies in long dresses, hothouse plants and shelves filled with tiny, often unidentifiable objects. Pale hands with elongated fingers feature prominently … pulling back a curtain, protruding from a wall or hole in the floor, posing as wall sconce, or reaching out to hold or grasp. It’s hard not to think of Edward Gorey, only here the women aren’t swooning. And unlike Gorey’s illustrations, this work is personal, dreamlike, and full of delicate lines, a myriad of grays, and fine detail.
The smallest prints and dioramas may require a magnifying glass (I felt for a moment like I needed to take my spectacles out of the curio cabinet to view them, so to speak). Looking at each piece is like peeking into a private, dimly lit room where you’re not sure you’re supposed to be, but you stumbled upon the room by accident, and now you’re glad you did.