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Head cases

Some Bodies at Spruill Gallery



Art movements from Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism have used visuals to render the mind's inner workings. The Spruill Gallery exhibition Some Bodies looks at how representations of the body can also reflect that head space. It's an interesting concept presented with varying degrees of success in this group show organized by the gallery's new curator, Julia Fenton.

Because Fenton has returned to Atlanta from a long stint living in Oregon, three of the seven participating artists hail from the Pacific Northwest and are mixed up with some well-known Atlanta artists.

The geographic collision is sometimes interesting and at other times not of much consequence beyond providing a chance to compare and contrast. Two of the most disappointing bodies of work, from Atlantan Judy Winograd and Oregon's Sandy Roumagoux, are prominently featured in Spruill's front room, and their shared affinity for superficial examinations of inner psychology may inspire reluctance about venturing further.

Though folk art is big in the Southeast, practiced by unschooled and schooled artists alike, Fenton says it doesn't get much play in Oregon. It is therefore doubly enjoyable to see John Carew-Reid, who offers disturbing, trippy spins on already psychologically infused van Gogh works, and artist Ben Soeby, an über-outsider whose obsession with fishing suggests an Oregon-folk answer to the charismatic-religious tendencies of our own homegrown folkies. Though much of Soeby's subject matter is on the quaint side (farm animals, fishing), his approach is dark, bordering on apocalyptic. The shirtless farmers hide axes behind their backs and the chickens tend to end up decapitated. And Soeby's precise, childlike drawing style only serves to intensify his work's freaky qualities.

Dark, ironic cuteness is also a major component of Atlanta artist Robert Sherer's work. Using the technique of burning images into wood practiced by amateur summer-camp craftsmen, Sherer's images fixate on '50s-style renderings of Boy Scouts and summer campers engaged in activities of a more Brokeback stripe. In the typically cheeky "Geysers," two pairs of shoes sit outside a zipped pup tent, the erupting geysers behind the tent hinting at a climactic rush within.

Philip Carpenter traffics in similarly kiddie material, rendering a variety of plastic and porcelain baby dolls in colored pencil. Sketched against plain white backgrounds, the baby dolls take on an iconic -- and creepy -- quality.

If those fixedly staring babies are representations of their own or the artist's innermost thoughts, be very afraid.

Some Bodies. Through June 17. Spruill Center for the Arts Gallery, 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 770-394-4019. www.spruillarts.org.

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