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Editorial Artist 

Lamal's work offers commentary on society

Charlotte painter and printmaker Polly Dove Lamal doesn't paint or draw peaceful landscapes or decorative still-lifes. Her fine art is more like the work of editorial cartoonists and makes biting comments about our society.

Even her drawings of pieces of pie have a bite -- she personifies each slice with incisors.

In person, Lamal is pleasant to talk with and does not seem formidable. She's a native of Monroe, where her father was the city engineer. When she was seven, Lamal and her sister Selma Krones (only 17 months older) drew pictures and held their first art exhibit in the basement of their grandmother's tourist home; they charged visitors five cents to tour their display.

Now, 53 years later, Lamal and Krones, a ceramicist, are having their second two-sister exhibit, A New Leaf, in Queens College's Watkins Hall through March 31.

Lamal, who paints under the name Pauline Dove, says her work comes out of the Southern tradition of storytelling. "I try for all of my work to tell a moral tale," she shares. "I'm an iconoclast. My work destroys icons and stereotypes."

In A New Leaf, Lamal attacks racism, femininity (she shows women as cowgirls) and romantic ideals. Her drawing "Autumn Heart," which took 80 hours to create, is full of loss and pain.

Lamal studied art history at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, where she graduated in 1965. Given the political and social advocacy in her work, it was only a coincidence that she then moved to Washington, DC, not to go into politics but to get a master's degree in painting at George Washington University. She studied with the color field painter Thomas Downing, who was linked to other DC-area abstract painters like Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis.

"I found it very exciting to be in Washington," exclaims Lamal. "I didn't relate to those Washington painters but to the Pop Art creators, as well as Roy Lichtenstein, Goya, William Hogarth and the German artist Kathe Kollowitz. My work is a cross between Walt Disney and the German Expressionist Otto Dix."

While Lamal was in Washington, she was in a bad auto accident that cost her 40 percent of the use of her left arm -- her painting arm. She was given a settlement of $1,000 from the accident (a lot of money in the 1960s), and she used that money to go study in Germany. When she returned to the United States, she completed graduate school and went to work for the government at The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.

Lamal returned to Charlotte in the late 1960s and worked in the Central Piedmont Community College art department for 30 years. While first working at CPCC, when she was still part-time, she also organized and hung exhibits for Spirit Square. As a challenge to the sterile quality of the business world, she brought in the National Xeroxography Invitational, an exhibit where artists made all of their works out of Xeroxes.

And in an effort to bring different cultures together, she organized an exhibit of Carolina artists in Morocco through the United States Information Agency. "I literally put all of the prints in suitcases and shipped them to Morocco," she shares.

Now retired from the academic life, Lamal lives in Huntersville, where she can devote herself to creating art fulltime. And, as always, she's looking for the next icon to bring down.

The exhibit A New Leaf continues in Watkins Hall at Queens College through Wednesday, March 31. Hours are 9am-5pm Monday through Friday. For additional information, call 704-560-5291.

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