Serious Fun

Four local artists bid a playful, colorful adieu to summer

Serious Fun

'Serious Fun'

Butridge Gallery at the Dougherty Arts Center, through Sept. 12

The Butridge Gallery at the Dougherty Arts Center has a little giggle for you to think about. Curator Edith Whitsitt has brought together four playful artists to bring back some color to the scene after our very rainy summer.

Tamara Johnston has the most representational work. Her WWJD? friendship bracelet attached to the wall with large nails doesn't seem to be looking for spiritual guidance. Instead, the title reveals Will We Just Die? That got a smirk, but the cast-bronze lunch is a little confusing. Are they cafeteria currencies or trophies for everyone's favorite school subject? Either way, it's a sad state we're laughing at. Some more work could help frame Johnston's work better and balance the onslaught of works on paper in the rest of the gallery.

Joseph Phillips' works are also familiar, not from school but from their previous appearances at D Berman Gallery and Arthouse's "New American Talent: 22." Their meanings in terms of landscape and social concerns have been dealt with, so this context highlights the images' absurdity and caricatured reality. Scooping up an idealized landscape and dropping it in a predefined setting is like something out of the computer games SimCity or Second Life. It's brightly cheerful, but suburban sprawl and New Urbanism keep it sober.

Kelly O'Connor starts having fun at the expense of the familiar Disney character she uses. Sometimes it's easy to identify Alice, Bambi, or Donald Duck among the collaged and drawn modifications to the paper. Other times there are only hints to some of the textures, colors, and forms used, as in an Arturo Herrera piece. Then there are the felt ball sculptures and collaged cloud forms. No need to search the Disney data banks for some obscure character; just take in the colors and bouncing edges as visual nods of your head.

Jeannie McKetta has the most abstract work, using only line, shape, and color. The creation of space by the formation of stripes alludes to landscapes (and the titles confirm it). The use of gouache makes the drawings look like prints, but they are kept lively in their rhythmic compositions. Their compact size also helps amplify the melodic energy. Tiny Landscape exemplifies this as it focuses your attention to a 5-inch-by-3-inch window and makes your eyes dance around.

Even though O'Connor and Phillips have larger works and more of them compared to Johnston and McKetta, it doesn't disrupt the figure-eight flow through the gallery. The long wall of O'Connor's work whips you across the foyer from the nostalgia side of the gallery to Phillips' works and the landscape side of the gallery. The serious notes may be worth considering, but the playful and colorful aspects of the show offer something else. Along with Nohegan and "Radical Nautical," "Serious Fun" bids a lighthearted adieu to summer. Was that a last hurrah before getting back to (school)work or some sweetness to help take our medicine?

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Serious Fun, Edith Whitsitt, Tamara Johnston, Joseph Phillips, Kelly O'Connor, Jeannie McKetta

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