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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sweet Sixteen

Art Review

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The accessible, enticing collection of artwork in the exhibition “16 Women” pays tribute to women past and present at the intimate Grava Gallery inside the MarshallBuilding. The appealing variety of artistic mediums—everything from an altered book to an homage to mothers in bas-relief on a ceramic birdhouse—provides provocative feminine viewpoints.

Curator Sally Gauger Jensen uses Prismacolor pencil with meticulous precision in her drawing Bay View Venus, a window mannequin exposed at Hairy’s Hair Bar. Gauger’s Venus stands barely clothed and slim, a modern version that references historical portraits of the mythological goddess.

She shares the exhibition space with her niece, Karen Gauger, whose black-and-white photograph Hello Bolivia silhouettes hills and spacious landscape against a gray granite sky.

A mother-daughter duo adds further intergenerational, female impact to the exhibit. Tara Bogart’s lipstick-red shadow boxes, Anatomy Is Destiny, depict the darker side of a literal sugar high. Bogart, who was diagnosed with diabetes, has used the life-changing event to develop her art. Flower petals, small heaps of dipsticks for testing blood and tiny mounds of frosting fill the bottoms of three boxes. This triptych exudes optimism in the face of coping with a major health concern. Tara’s mother, Taffnie Bogart, shows two sunburned-toned photos of muscular shoulders that contrast with dark, foreboding backgrounds.

Janet Roberts and Collette Odya Smith contribute more traditional paintings to the exhibit. Roberts’ Arsenal, an oil on paper with torn edges placed over a long rectangular canvas, seems to represent a dressing table of hats, jewelry and handbags that describes the necessary and valuable accoutrements in a woman’s life. Odya Smith’s Hidden Gems combines pastel and watercolor to portray the silent and secretive beauty of a stream; her nuanced coloring in bright greens, blues and pinks simulates the rush of water.

Milwaukee’s well-known Della Wells contributes a collage, The Age of Our Song, a kaleidoscopic image that creates a musical tribute to home life.

Each artist in “16 Women” deserves individual attention, regardless of the viewer’s gender, so be sure to check out this collection of talent that runs through April 19.

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