Michael Tole
Michael Tole at Conduit Gallery

Michael Tole asked permission before he started taking photographs in the Old World Showroom, a shop at the Galleria in North Dallas that specializes in reproductions of Faberge eggs and other luxury decorative items. The result of his endeavors, on view at Conduit Gallery, are lush realist paintings that, despite permission granted, still have a furtive air about them.

An untitled work by artist Michael Tole features a lush rendering of Faberge eggs. Views come from above or at hip level, and Mr. Tole enlarges details of the images to create a Land of Giants-style vision of decorative extravagance. The paintings range from 9 by 12 inches to 55 by 112 inches. While you look at the paintings you feel as if you are either looming over displays or squatting on the shop's floor.

Mr. Tole revels in detail. Pink and white porcelain, green and blue enamel and gold trim all glisten on the gem-encrusted eggs. One egg opens to reveal an elegant woman dressing for the evening. Inside another is a tiny carousel with two horses.

The artist has the skill to depict all this with almost creepy precision. He paints even his largest "wet on wet," which means that each work is a single layer of oil paint with each day's work starting from the still active edge of the previous day's application.

His fondness for transparent pigments creates an iridescent finished picture. Some images are out of focus, as though the artist got in too close or jiggled the camera. But the blurring only increases the baroque extravagance of the images where it occurs. His skills recently won him the $50,000 Hunting Prize from the Houston office of the British energy company Hunting PLC

His previous body of work took a similar approach to the gift shop at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. The hard candy and geegaws he found there may seem a world away from these Faberge reproductions, but his egalitarian approach to the subject matter unites them. The paintings do not come off as mean-spirited. Rather they reflect Mr. Tole's fascinated appreciation for the vagaries of American taste.
–Charles Dee Mitchell

"Some Queer Noisy Pendulum (Faberge Paintings)" by Michael Tole continues through June 16 at Conduit Gallery, 1626-C Hi Line Drive. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Free. 214-939-0064. www.conduitgallery.com.