The Horror, the Humor

Serena Cole embraces laughter and terror in equal parts. On one hand, the characters she creates from ink, watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache look (intentionally) ridiculous. The subject of I'm an Animal I, for example, wears a modified tutu, stylized nylons, and a stiffened doily that's neither mask nor tiara but sort of each. Yet she also wears a look so dark and menacing as to resemble one of the flesh-ripping, shape-shifting demons you'd see on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or (the new BBC version of) Doctor Who. If you were to encounter this Animalin person, you'd run before you thought of laughing. Cole is one of five California women artists who keep viewers off balance in “Fabrications.” Each depicts a reality that is counterweighted with imagined states of being. Cole's work pits the fantasy created by the modern-day fashion industry against its reality. Libby Black tackles the same dichotomy with gouache and graphite. In Prince Charming, her subject elicits more pity than fear, although the internal dispute is clear: An over-the-top outfit (including crown, brand-name shirt, and mimelike makeup) is contradicted by wide eyes and a tentative stance that say nothing as much as “please like me.” Melissa Manfull uses watercolor and ink to create architectural paradoxes, Jennifer Celio renders environmental degradation in graphite, and Taravat Talepasand uses the same medium to address the contradictory elements of her Iranian and American heritage. Her Death to Bitches! is as disturbing a piece as we've ever seen. The opening reception starts at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Jan. 8. Continues through Feb. 5, 2011

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