Who hasn't at some point fallen sway to glitter's charms?
Like felt and paste, construction paper and pipe cleaners, glitter is a central player in childhood's stage craft. It is happiness and excitement in gritty, defiantly clinging form.
That crafty, girly, upbeat material assumes many guises in the Swan Coach House Gallery show All That Glitters: The Sparkling Works of Nine Southern Artists. For some of the artists, glitter is a yummy filling, but for others it's the whole jelly doughnut. In the latter camp is Joni Mabe's obsessively glitter-encrusted portrait of "P.T. Barnum." The wow-factor portrait gives props to the notoriously gilded American showman who did his part to make hucksterism and razzle dazzle part of the national character. Portraits of Elvis and blues singer Robert Johnson feature personalities less glitter-relevant and fall back on glitter's ability to simply dress up and sparkle-ize some pedestrian pop-culture shout-outs.
The highlight of the show may be longtime Atlanta artist Jim Waters' glittery crosses, just in time for Easter. Waters is no glitter Johnny-come-lately; he's been working with the stuff for years now, using glitter to lend a showbiz flair to his declarative "Pow! Smash! Kerbam!" shapes. Revved up with decorative, ornate shapes, his godly-by-way-of-Vegas crosses are like flames on a vintage car: souped-up and campy, probably more suited to Liberace than J.C.
Despite the intriguing incorporation of glitter into his recent post-mod collages, Eric Mack's work on view at Swan Coach House isn't up to his usual high standards. Amalia Amaki's button- and bauble-encrusted candy and jewelry boxes also feel a little old hat amid examples of glitter's neo-applications.
Probably the best illustration of how glitter (and craft) have gone high art is Claire Joyce, who just jumped ship from Atlanta for California, leaving a trail of glitter behind her. The two works on display here, featuring birthday cake and unicorns, push all the kitsch buttons – though they have far less impact than her autobiographical, detail-crazed glitter epics.
One of Atlanta's most prominent glitter advocates, Sarah Emerson, illustrates how contemporary artists evoke childhood, femininity and create a dreamy, retro sensibility by sprinkling the stuff into tragio-romantic woodland scenes. Her spare but eye-grabbing, femmed-up portrait of a buck, called "Beast," feels like a tickle from a feather duster, a nicely ethereal accompaniment to Judy Parady's wonderful translations of glitter into dreamy solar systems.
All That Glitters: The Sparkling Works of Nine Southern Artists. Through April 26. Swan Coach House Gallery, 3130 Slaton Drive. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 404-266-2636. www.swancoachhouse.com.
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