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Art People: Mary Jones is looking for a special place

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Dotty Christine

Gentle and mean

Angels dance on her lawn

Call her sad call her gone

Tell all thats gone wrong

She calls herself

Serene.

Dotty Christine has stilts for legs and a tiny head. Her arms are soft, like tentacles. They curve around a chicken she cradles. Behind her, a cobbled path diverges, its two branches leading to two houses, and the ground rises steeply to a narrow ribbon of sky. Everything tilts a little precariously, but Dotty looks straight out at us. "It's her declaration of independence," says Mary Jones, who created both the painting--which she says is loosely autobiographical--and the limericklike rhyme mounted beneath it. "She will be whatever she is."

Jones makes her living as an illustrator. She is 41 years old, barefoot and bony, lithe as one of her own cats. Crouched before her drawing board in the second-floor studio of the north-side home she shares with her husband and five-year-old daughter, she talks about cartoons, children's art, naive and outsider art.

"I'm looking for that place where words and drawing come together," she says. "Kids develop a series of pictorial symbols, which is the same thing as writing. It's conceptual. When they draw a scene with the sky up here, and the sun right here, and themselves smiling, with a dog and a tree, they're saying, all is right with the world. And everything is in its place."

But the people in Jones's paintings are not at ease in their place, charming as it may be. Too big for it, or much too small, they bump their heads on the sky or dance like specks across an uneven terrain vast enough to terrify. Either way, it's not a comfortable fit.

Take Dotty Christine. Some things she would rather not discuss: the vertiginous world, the free-fall space, the earth so steep it swallows. It used to be a problem. Sad, gone, she was hopeless, Jones says. "But she's come back from it. She thought she was just a crazy person who would never fit in. Now she realizes it doesn't matter a bit what anyone else thinks."

Dotty Christine and other paintings by Mary Jones are on display at ARC Gallery, 1040 W. Huron, through June 27. Hours are 11 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. Call 733-2787 for more information.

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

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