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'Fear' fills the halls of Fe Gallery

| Thursday, April 28, 2005

If, as President Roosevelt so aptly put it, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," then visitors to Fe Gallery in Lawrenceville have good reason to be afraid.

That's because most of the 24 works by nine artists on view in the exhibition are all about fear, that "distressing emotion aroused by impending danger," as the show's announcement card maintains.

Take, for example, Adam Shreckhise's installation piece "Swinging Floor and Stairway." Located right up front at the gallery's entrance, you basically have to walk on it to get to the show. And that isn't as easy it sounds.

The artist has suspended various sections of wooden plank flooring from the ceiling on thin cables. The whole thing -- made of multifarious units -- hovers 3 feet from the gallery floor.

"It's like something you'd find at Kennywood," says gallery director Melanie Luke. But, in reality, it's much scarier. In fact, navigating it can be quite difficult. Luckily, there is a small space to use as a bypass -- if you're not up to the challenge.

However, once on the other side of the piece, the trepid feeling it evokes will not be gone.

Standing in front of one of Wendy Osher's pieces, "Secret," tilting my head slightly to read the words the artist has embroidered in wool on the rayon and cotton swath that comprises the piece, Luke points her finger high above me.

"You're in the way of the wrecking ball, and it could snap at any moment," she says as a slight giggle starts to build in her throat.

True enough, there it was -- a 3-foot around steel ball -- and it looked like it was heading for me on a pendulous course. Save for the fact that it was tethered to a wall.

I didn't feel exactly at ease when Luke pointed out that there are three more just like it, all created by John Benvenuto, tenuously poised in various places throughout the gallery.

Thankfully, the remaining works are little less threatening of bodily harm, but nonetheless engaging.

Although, if you're not careful, you could step on Tessa Windt's installation piece "From the abandoned series, V."

It wouldn't hurt to step on it -- not that you'd be advised to do so. The vinyl and fabric blob-like construction looks something like a coroner's body bag. That's not the way anyone would want to suit up.

Which brings us to Richard Metz's four suit jackets, which hang side by side. Each has a painting on the back that, according to the artist's statement, "represent 21st-century cautionary mythological tales." (sic.) One look at the paintings of greedy monsters in the paintings titled "Robber Baron" and "Desirous" and you'll get the point.

There are other paintings in the show, too.

Larry Jens Anderson presents several paintings that pit Dick of "Dick and Jane" fame in a heretofore un-revealed predicament -- how to deal with his budding homosexuality. The series is a metaphor, of course, for the artist's own childhood, but nonetheless convincing of such perplexities. Nevertheless, titles such as "Labeled a Fruit" and "Little Queen" will have to suffice here in place of graphic descriptions.

And if those pesky monsters under your bed still cause you to wet your jammys, then the six scary monster portraits by Amy Hill all hung in a row will help you shed some light on the subject. Lovingly painted in the style of the Dutch masters, the monsters reflect the kinds of deformities and features similar to creatues found in horror and sci-fi flicks.

Last, but definitely not least scary, is John English's installation "552 Georgians: A Memorial." The 552 nooses hang in a cluster, representing as many lynchings that occurred in Georgia between1880 and 1930, most of whom were of black men.

On the walls surrounding the nooses, the artist has hung brief statistical descriptions as they relate to each of the victims -- names, race and county they were from, as well as the particular offenses that led to their lynching. The offenses include "Father of a murderer," "Suing a white man" and "Voted Democratic."

Now that truly is frightening. Additional Information:

Details

'Fear'

What: Group show of works about the emotion of fear by nine artists.

When: Through May 13. Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Where: Fe Gallery, 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville.

Details: (412) 860-6028.

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