Good company

By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  November 27, 2007
MESMERIZING: Barbara Pagh’s “Woodland
Most gallery shows that present a broad spectrum of artists have the distinct advantage of appealing to a wide variety of tastes among viewers. Such is the case with the current exhibit at Hera Gallery, featuring eight members of the gallery collective and 12 friends.
The show includes puppetry, cartoons, oils, watercolors, drawings, collage, photography, sculpture, installation, and even a political parable. The latter is by Troy West, with a tale of phrases turned deadly during the Bush era, hand-lettered on a poster with a clenched fist.
Claudia Flynn’s glass-sided box filled with sweepings from a hairdresser (“Remains”) is another thought-provoking image, though more memento mori than revolutionary. In a kindred mood is Leslie Bostrom’s watercolor, “Headlights: Study from the Bird Disaster Series.” An owl falls upside down against a cityscape with streaks of blood to one side, his eyes frozen in a panicked stare.
Dark reminders of time and fate are also found in Jill McLaughlin’s collaged cigar boxes, one with a small house with roots emerging below it and a vial of water swinging above it, titled “Erosion.” Myron Rubenstein’s painting, “In the Sunset of Time, Revealed,” gives another glimpse into a brooding subconscious, as the nude figure of a woman barely emerges from under broad swaths of red. 
Hera Artists and Friends” | Hera Gallery, 327 Main St, Wakefield | Through December 22
Barbara Pagh’s photolithographs have a similar effect. The two pieces from her “Woodland Series,” printed on handmade paper, pull you into forest scenes of trunks and branches that are quite dreamlike and mythic in their soft focus and in their connection to smaller close-ups of roots and stones. Absolutely mesmerizing.
In different ways, so are Cynthia Farnell’s luminous green watercolor, “Luna Moth,” and Daniel Potter’s plasma cut steel representation of “Leda,” the woman seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan. The sculpture undulates with the curves of a female figure, her head thrown all the way back as she balances her body in the other direction. Another artist working in metal is Nancy Dean, with two pitchforks intertined and mounted to form an intriguing puzzle.
Mysterious but entrancing is Darrell Matsumoto’s “Untitled,” from “Objects of Desire,” a photograph with swirls of rose and burgundy set against a rich blue background. Alexandra Broches’s black-and-white photos of public gardens in Wuxi, China, are more straightforward, but the closed wooden gate in one and the bent poles in another pique a viewer’s curiosity.
Four artists work in bold colors and styles: Jeannette Jacobs’s quilt “ALPHABET” pulls the shapes of letters and numbers into abstract, though geometrical, patterns; Linda Denosky-Smart’s paintings feature bright abstract strata and figures; Beth Nixon’s cartoons and puppets have layers of satire; and John Kotula’s moon-faced “Sonaguera Portraits” offer full characterizations of their subjects. Kotula’s round faces seem to be two children, two men, and two women. The children are shy or frightened; the women cheerful or content; the men possibly angry or reflective. The portrait circles float on non-intrusive backgrounds of tropical flowers, inspired by the Honduras countryside where Kotula spent two years in the Peace Corps.
Nixon has extended the humor she gives her puppets and their performances — there are three humans and a wooly mammoth displayed here — to drawing, specifically cartoons that illustrate a palindrome, with many of the characters in the drawing speaking in other palindromes. For example, “May a Moody Baby Doom a Yam” has a bare bald baby, giant yam in one hand and knife in the other, and the tuber is yammering, “Sit on a potato pan, Otis!”
“Hera Artists and Friends” has some wonderful surprises. It’s definitely worth a visit.

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