There's artistic beauty in nature vs. manmade

Four seasoned artists present their work at Glendale's Brand Library Art Gallery, coalescing into their theme the notion of Inside/Out. That concept examines the duality between organic and manufactured, nature and technology, flora and fauna, the results of which turn into interesting comparisons, both literal and figurative, in their pieces.

Diane McLeod's intaglio prints with applied color depict interaction between man and animal, both real and conceived. Laura Larson's sculptures and sculptural installations marry the organic with the manufactured — pine needles arranged vertically on a plywood base look a little like a reduced-scale model of a ripened crop circle.

Alison Petty Ragguette's background in medical art is apparent in her porcelain, rubber and silk-thread sculptures. Finally, Jamie Sweetman shows off her life-drawing skills and anatomical knowledge in layered comparisons of the human body and other natural forms.

The theme Inside/Out is respected most by Ragguette and Sweetman.

Ragguette's wall-mounted sculptures are visceral, resembling the twisting and curling forms of internal organs. Hand-thrown porcelain bubbles and pods are wrapped with medical-grade silicon rubber that has a translucent quality. Bound into shapes with silk thread running through the rubber guts like capillaries, the artist's piece titled "Cross Section Ellipse" is activated by light, stimulating the imagination to visualize the internal workings of the living human body in action. Pinks, reds and fleshy colors contribute to the effect. Georgia O'Keefe might have respected Ragguette's micro perspective and pulsating presentation of her interpretation of the inside of nature's most complex organism. It is a manufactured version of nature's best work.

Sweetman's layered renderings compare tree roots and vine systems with human and animal skeletons and vascular systems by layering images drawn on Duralar and Mylar. The opaque materials add a mystical quality to the analogies. The artist uses colored pencil, sepia and white to sketch plant and anatomical components in a Da Vinci-like fashion, a layer for each organism. Articulated spinal cords and skeletons are layered under complex root systems.

The comparisons reinforce nature's brilliance and emphasize a theme in all of her creations. Sweetman is well practiced with pencil and her idea is provocative. "Bone Vine 2" is an interesting intersection of her subjects. Dramatic lighting might have accentuated the similarities and differences by fusing the images even more.

Larson mixes organic and manmade materials, sequins and pine needles, Styrofoam and wax to create unusual sculptures. Her installation project, titled "Campaign," is a hodgepodge of stuff. "Campaign" has multiple components — tent, director's chair, work table and a variety of printed images — that work together yet stand as sculptural projects independently.

Both Larson and McLeod exhibit projects that seem less related to the theme of the exhibition than do those of Sweetman and Ragguette, although I understand that McLeod is a well-respected printmaker, and her polar bear series shown in this exhibition does represent her ability. This inconsistency, however, causes the exhibition to feel a little disjointed — pardon the anatomical pun.

Terri Martin is an artist, art historian and art critic.



What: Inside/Out

Where: Brand Library Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale

When: noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday until April 15

Contact: (818) 548-2051