Local Palette

Significant Others

Various Artists

Lyons Matrix Gallery
through February 22

Botanic Romantic by Robin Urton
The new year has brought a bevy of new art shows. It seems that just about every gallery in town has decided to start '97 with a fresh collection, which makes this a truly delightful time for the faithful gallery-hopper.

For its first show of the year, Lyons Matrix took an interesting curatorial approach; it asked each of its regular artists to select one work by another artist of their choice. Hence "Significant Others," a melange of pieces created in varied styles by 15 artists. It's quite a departure from the gallery's usual one- or two-person exhibitions.

One of the show's most striking works is Robin Urton's Botanic Romantic. Urton uses oils on elaborate layers of plexiglass to portray a woman's reproductive system in contrast to that of a flower. The work is full of metaphors involving reproduction and the biological clock, and their places in nature. "It's both about the fear of getting pregnant and the fear of never getting pregnant," Urton says. "It is a contemplation of reproduction, as well as an idea of time."

Directly across from Urton's work is another piece that appears to represent the female design. Michel L. Conroy's excerpt from her "Nocturne Series" is a long, vertical, blue wall hanging that comes to a point at the top and bottom; in the middle, she has carved out a vertical space and filled it with large, cracked eggshell-like pieces of porcelain. Within these cracked pieces are messages written in an illegible scrawl. The entire piece is illuminated from behind with a soft, glowing light. To me, the structure says "birth."

"It is a female form," Conroy explains, "but it's also a boat form, representing journey, travel, and transformation." The porcelain represents what is being held on the voyage, and the writings are confessional prayers that Conroy intentionally left unreadable. "I like the idea of concealed messages," Conroy says.

Although birth, rebirth, and transformation were not suggested topics for this show, their representations in such strong works seem fitting for a new year's exhibition.

Found Object Art

Various Artists

Laughing at the Sun Gallery
through February 22

One thing you can usually count on with a found object show is lots of work filled with gizmos and gadgets that you see every day of your life but never thought to include in a piece of art. This collection by more than 30 artists has its fair share of one-person's-trash-is-another-person's-art, though it's not clear how the photographs and paintings constitute "found art," which usually consists of structural images made from random articles.

One artist whose work successfully hits the mark with found art, in all its eccentric possibilities, is Dan Everitt. Everitt's viewboxes made me feel like a little girl, peering into little, mystical dollhouse-like worlds. Everitt transforms cigar boxes, old clock frames, and whatnot into trinket-filled treats. He appears to have an affinity for doll heads and watch parts, bringing the two together in "Spring Baby," a spring-limbed baby doll crowning one of the viewboxes. His creations are similar to Sid's bizarre inventions in Toy Story, but without the evil element.

These are the kinds of works that make you think, "Oh, why did I throw out all those old vacuum cleaner parts? I could have made a cool shadowbox out of them!" That's exactly what the gallery is trying to encourage with this show -- for people to look around and examine the artistic potential of any given thing. Even old watch springs. -- Cari Marshall

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