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MIXED MESSAGES

NINTH ANNUAL REGIONAL ARTISTS EXHIBITION

WHAT: Work in various mediums by 40 Western New York artists

WHEN: Through Oct. 6

WHERE: Art Dialogue Gallery, The Western New York Artists Group, One Linwood Avenue

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: 885-2251

At the center of the current exhibit in Art Dialogue Gallery is a charming, clothed and jointed, two-foot high ceramic rabbit by Carrianne Hendrickson, titled "The Untold Faces of Romulus Rabbit." Not merely whimsical, this rabbit holds a philosophical message. Is he perhaps a fusion of Alice's White Rabbit and the sometimes brutal co-founder of ancient Rome, Romulus?

Standing erect, he finds his way by means of a compass dangling from his hand like the White Rabbit's watch. Books titled "Unity" and "Man" are at his feet, and a visor-like wolf mask is lifted over his brow in the manner of a knight's suit of armor. He seems to ask, "Is a wolf really a rabbit?" "Do the timid require a fierce mask to navigate through life?" "Are we all just rabbits underneath?"

This provocative work is one facet of this ninth annual regional exhibition mounted at Art Dialogue Gallery and sponsored by the Western New York Artists Group located in the gallery. It is a very mixed show that covers a broad range of traditional media, from painting and drawing to sculpture and photography. Forty art works were chosen from nearly 300 entries by juror Ted Pietrzak, Burchfield Penney Art Center director.

One of the stronger pieces is Alma Slotkin's watercolor, "Storm Aftermath," winner of an Honorable Mention. The abstract intensity of the tangle of storm-tossed saplings is strengthened by the artist's realistic rendering of the tumultuous landscape. The delicate brushwork of branches bending in the wind becomes a swirl of curved lines set against a churning undergrowth in splashes of white. Like a magic trick, the viewer is anchored in realism, yet thrust into an emotion-charged abstraction that reflects the rage of the storm.

In contrast to Slotkin's agitated landscape, calmness reigns in Catherine Parker's gouache "Solar Eclipse." Painted in hues of dark blue and golden yellow, it is a work that is almost child-like in its purity. In a transcendent scene, the shadowed moon passes serenely across the sun on the horizon over the sea. The sun's corona radiates outward into the atmosphere and reflects its mirror image on the water, and a sprinkling of stars shine back from the surface of the sea.

Jenine Gehl's tiny, skillfully rendered and beautifully composed nude presents one of art's familiar subjects from a complex viewpoint. Gehl adeptly compresses the reclining figure into the small format, folding the legs in upon the body in an almost protective gesture. As if in an appeal for privacy, the woman peers hesitantly over an arm shielding her face.

Another impressive ceramic piece is Carol Townsend's spherical "Turbo." It is a studied conglomeration of ever-enveloping swirls, each with a unique set of knobs and bumps and impressions and textures. Fresh vistas of form and shape - often of unexpected complexity - appear with each new viewing angle.

The First Place Award went to Edward G. Bisone for "Stranger in Town," a painterly cartoonish take on the gunslinger theme. Bruce Bitmead won Second Place for his dense, pigment-laden "Self-portrait." "Parakeets Laugh," a big, cool-toned abstraction with fragments of floating pattern-work, took the Third Place Award. The photography award went to Andrew Sanders' "Blue and Black Tarpaulin" and the second Honorable Mention to Robert Freedland's austere "Majdanek Memorial."

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