Buffalo has a thing for gardens.
On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of city residents will open up their homes and gardens for public scrutiny during the annual Garden Walk, while a handful of other garden-themed activities planned for the waning weeks of summer will transform Buffalo into a veritable botanical bonanza.
But Doreen DeBoth, a painter and director of the Artsphere Studio and Gallery, is taking the garden walk indoors. In the third incarnation of the gallery's annual Garden Mystique Exhibition, DeBoth has collected 50 works from 30 area artists capturing the mysteries of nature through sculpture, photography and painting. In short, DeBoth said, the show intends to capture "all the beauty that nature produces."
That's a tall order, but one that participating artists have no trouble confronting.
For photographer and longtime abstract painter Frank O'Connor, the Garden Mystique show is an opportunity for viewers to consider the surprising complexities of nature in a way that the naked eye can't perceive on its own. O'Connor's works in the show include a photograph of a flower, which he digitally transformed into a watercolor, printed and then brushed over with acrylic paint. The end result is a worked-over and manipulated abstraction that not just captures a simple flower but also projects onto it O'Connor's unique perspective.
O'Connor, who has been painting and taking pictures for more than 35 years, said that his personality and speech problems made him a prime candidate for abstract expressionism, a mode he heralds for its purely introspective and uncomplicated nature.
"I'm in my own private world," O'Connor said. "I'm odd, but I'm not that odd. [As a child,] if you can't socialize, you can't hang out with your friends or pick up girls, because you can barely talk. So you get this weird sense of what reality is. I just naturally stumbled into abstract art because of the silent nature of it."
For other artists exhibiting at Artsphere, where a lengthy artistic resume is by no means a prerequisite for entry, the urge to capture the enormity of nature has taken on wildly diverse forms -- from O'Connor's "odd, but not that odd" abstractions to more traditional works.
After last year's October Surprise storm, Eugene Cunningham was inspired to sculpt a stainless-steel tree with haggard and damaged limbs to capture the widespread devastation to Western New York's trees. Cunningham, a doctor at the Erie County Medical Center by day, only started sculpting in 2003, when he began working with a St. Catharines, Ont.-based metalworker he met at Artpark. Since then, Cunningham has created more than 350 sculptures.
"I like welding, and I like the handling of the metal versus maybe I'm a little too impatient to sit and draw between the lines," Cunningham said. "It kind of suits me. Cause if I don't like it, I take a sledgehammer and break it apart. It's basically that kind of approach."
DeBoth will also exhibit two works from the late artist and teacher Violet Gordon, who taught DeBoth and hundreds of others at Fosdick-Masten Vocational High School (now City Honors). Those works, "Summer Garden" and a charcoal-on-paper sketch titled "Tree in Delaware Park in Winter II," will serve as the centerpieces of the exhibition.
WHAT: Third annual Garden Mystique Exhibition
WHEN: Opens at 6:30 tonight and runs through Aug. 25
WHERE: Artsphere Studio, 466 Amherst St.
INFO: www.artspherestudio.com or 876-7188