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Shoestring art: Affordable and compelling works at Bickett Gallery

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Winter Group Show
Works by Greg Giles, Brian Shawcroft, Walter Salas-Humara, MJ Cunningham, Skylar Kuehn, Myhra Smith, Greg Clayton, Ursula Gullow, Beth Tacular, Owen F. Smith, David Colagiovanni
Through Jan. 15
Bickett Gallery, 209 Bickett Blvd., Raleigh
836-5358, www.bickettgallery.com

Greg Clayton's "Frisco 6012" (2006), 23 in. x 19 in. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BICKETT GALLERY

Bickett Gallery's Winter Group Show, which closes this weekend, brings together 11 artists and an abundance of media. Included in the exhibit are photography, painting, various mixed media and an experimental video installation. Wide-ranging in both content and conception, the show's purpose is to make original art collecting more financially accessible—none of the works are priced more than $500.

Gallery founder and curator Molly Miller points out that for $85, less than the cost of a framed mass-produced print, you could purchase one of Walter Salas-Humara's signature Dogs paintings. But choosing which pooch to take home might be difficult—each of Salas-Humara's pop-arty canines reveal a distinct personality upon serious inspection. If you're really on a budget, Skylar Kuehn's tiny abstract paintings are even more affordable. Kuehn, a young emerging artist, glops on thick colors to topographic effect.

Larger, simplistic, but gleefully cheeky are Greg Clayton's gaudy paintings. Unpretentious and appealing, the mid-sized canvases are inhabited by stoic cattle, disgruntled vampires and sour devils. Breaking the horn/fang theme, Clayton also includes a desert spaceship landing-site. He's tapping into creepy Roswell lore. Suggestively, there's a light on in one of the windows of the battered craft—a subtle detail that makes the garish painting work.

Reminiscent of uni-browed Frida Kahlo, there's a gutsy and hairy woman who recurs in Beth Tacular's excellent mixed media drawings. Tacular is apparently making some attempt at catharsis with her oblique nexus of bird, nest and feminine hygiene. There are also her diminutive but fearsome storm clouds—little Napoleons ready to attack with laser precision. The concoction is potent and provocative. Are we seeing Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth anthropomorphized? Tacular's conjecture seems to be that civilization could be destroyed by a biosphere gone wild. Some viewers will leave elated by the kernel that Tacular so slyly drops into the earth.

Beth Tacular's "Nest-drowning Mungry" (2006), 7 in. x 9.5 in. Pen and ink on paper. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BICKETT GALLERY

Besides offering an eclectic and affordable mix, Winter Group Show gives a clue as to what Bickett Gallery might be curating in the future. The small oil paintings that Ursula Gullow contributed to the current exhibition offer only a cursory and understated preview of what the Asheville-based artist is capable of. The finest of her work is simultaneously folksy, epic and quietly revolutionary—and apparently best suited to larger proportions. Miller says there's a possibility that Gullow's larger and richer paintings will be shown at Bickett at a later date. Not yet widely seen in the Triangle, Gullow is an artist to watch for in the New Year.

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