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Spirit and light

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We had all kinds of tiring hoopla surrounding the end of the year--the century, the "millennium"--but hang on, folks, it's not over yet. Now we get a round of "new" and "fresh." I'm not saying this is such a bad thing, just that I'll be glad when we get to some less portentous days on the calendar and we can go back to using the word "year" rather than "Y." I figure we'll have a few months of reprieve between March and July, when we'll have gotten blasé about 2000, and before the hype starts for next year.

But meanwhile, back in the galleries, we have Y 2000 Design and Spirit at Carrboro's Green Tara. Gallery owner Donna Soto put out an international call for entries for this show last year, and received 400 entries--meaning she looked at more than 1,000 slides in order to choose the 17 pieces that fill the gallery's small, changing exhibition space. Most of the work is from the United States, with two pieces from North Carolina, but there is also work from Spain and Venezuela.

"We wanted a consciousness in creating," says Soto. "We were after 'design aforethought,' a purposefulness in the work." This is reflected in the pieces chosen for the show. There is a clear bias toward the designerly, rather than the expressionistic or the conceptual. Included are paintings, photography, a textile hanging, a piece of woodworking and several clay pieces, both wall work and sculpture. To my eye, the clay work is of the greatest interest--but that is true throughout the gallery.

Soto works in clay herself and is deeply knowledgeable about ceramics. Green Tara carries the work of several good potters, and, although I appreciate the intent of and the effort behind Y 2000 Design and Spirit, I found much more of interest in the regular sales area than in the special exhibition.

Of particular note are Sally Resnick's crystal-glazed pieces. Some of these are stunningly beautiful. Resnick lives locally and is associated with a scientific crystal study project at UNC-Chapel Hill, and she was, so to speak, raised in clay--her mother Janet is also a potter. Sally Resnick's simple forms may look primitive, but it takes skill to keep your trays and other flat items actually flat under the conditions most conducive to growing crystals in the glazes. She uses lips and other devices to encourage the glazes to move in certain ways in the kiln, and the resulting formations often look like outer space seen through a telescope. As she notes, her crystals demonstrate, in microcosm, the same physical properties that determine the patterns of the universe.

The gallery is also showing fine functional work by other potters like John Svara, Doug Dotson and Isreal Davis, along with some lovely porcelain pieces by Brasstown resident Lisa Tevia Clark. These bowls, trays, platters, wall pieces and tall elegantly formed vases and amphorae are delicately, yet richly carved, and impressed with wonderful decorations. There are lots of round motifs and many living things, both animal and floral, depicted, and the glazes have the same balance of liveliness and restraint as the decorations. Altogether this is very poetic work.

There's visual poetry of another kind currently on view in the Durham Arts Council's Allenton Gallery. York Wilson, who is the DAC's coordinator for photography and digital arts, is showing The Luxury of Time: Southeast Asian Portraits, a small sampling from the thousands of photographic images he made while traveling for a year in Southeast Asia before moving to Durham less than two years ago. All the photographs are full of luminous color and radiate a tenderness for their subjects. There are several very beautiful images here.

They are beautiful partly because of the quality of the light, although Wilson disclaims any responsibility for that: In Burma, he says, you didn't have to think about the light much, because it is always wonderful. However, I suspect he has an eye for the way the right light brings out the loveliness of the world.

But I think the real source of their beauty is in the photographer's openness to what he was seeing, and his gentleness toward the land and people filling his eye and his camera lens. There is absolutely no feeling of surreptitiousness or greed in these pictures. These images were not snatched. Wilson wasn't in a hurry on his travels, and when looking at his photographs, I feel myself slow down, too. I want to linger with them, the way you linger with a poem full of resonant phrases. EndBlock

Green Tara Gallery is planning to hold an artists' salon in late February, to be hosted by the Orange County Arts Commission. Call the OCAC, 245-2335, for more information.

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