Culture 2 Go

Beautiful darkness
; Welcome to the Forest
; Through July 10 at Neon Forest Gallery
; 1841 S. Orange Ave.
; 321-217-1675
; Free

Amongst the gritty charm of south Orange Avenue, the Neon Forest Gallery has freshly sprouted within a one-story, army-green building. Welcome to the Forest mixes locals with artists from around the nation in a pleasant, small, white-wall gallery featuring a beautiful interior corner made of harvested scrap wood. Dustin Orlando, a contemporary art scene contributor at former galleries Latitude Zero and Bold Hype, curates this venue. Beautiful and sometimes humorous work tingles with dystopian doubt, hinting at darker doings in the Forest.

Mat Curran's disturbing portraits vibrate with frustration at the gallery's rear entry, contrasting with a serene young girl's face in Brandon McLean's "And She Was." In Andrew Spear's "Suezanna," dark shadows linger in the eyes of the full-lipped beauty, hinting at a troubled past. In this same room, Portland artist Jesse Reno's subtle shamans roam complex, layered dreamworlds. In "Best to Let Direction Find Itself," Reno's headdressed figure pithily reaches out to a celestial body swirling around the main figure with Paleolithic cave-painting symbols.

The main room blends many artists together with both beauty and chaos. Doug Boehm's four panels depict allegorically the war between left and right; stick figures battling over flat, layered landscapes of flecked paint. Overshadowing them are two works: "Guerreira," a cutout female war goddess by Dres13 and "The Thing That Should Not Be," another war goddess, painted by Johannah O'Donnell. O'Donnell's hard-edged, flat female portrait is under a suspended crown flanked by demonic, upturned blue palms, out of which red tongues flick, portending doom. Azure claws also appear in Horsebite's "Vicious Vision," this time chasing each other around a giant eyeball, phalanges spilling out dry leaves and yet never reaching the other.

Mad, futile activity continues in Dolla's "Pick Up the Pieces," in which surly, slavelike creatures attempt to make order out of disorder. Indeed, the show reeks of inexorable chaos, personified in Scott Donald's "Spirit Bear in the Golden Age of Jihad." Here, docile Spirit Bear's world takes a turn for the worse as red airliners plunge, in formation, down and to the right.

Dispiriting and disturbing as much of the present times may be, beauty is still present, and Neon Forest brings forth compelling, strong images within the tiny space. They warn of a dark future, yet reverberate with irrepressible humanity and joy.

— Richard Reep

Pieces of home
;Recycled, Wrapped and Sewn: Works by Courtney Puckett
;Through July 30 at Anita
;S. Wooten Gallery
;Valencia Community
;College East Campus
;701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail

The upside to visiting the colorful textile exhibit Recycled, Wrapped and Sewn by Courtney Puckett at Valencia Community College's east campus gallery is the superb air-conditioning and nearby atrium strewn with couches and tables. You'll want to have enough time to sink into the intricacies of the 10 large, odd-sized constructions that elicit a sense of homey comfort due to the Maryland artist's choice of domestic materials – dish towels, wrapping paper, duct tape and scraps of textiles in various textures – worn quilts to Victorian angel prints.

There is a feminine sensibility that infuses her assemblages, created from practical materials that have been, well, recycled, wrapped and sewn. For its sheer size and colors of the rainbow, the seven chunky strands suspended from the high ceiling dominate the show without overwhelming; whimsically titled "Spaghetti," the individual pieces dangle freely down to the floor, fashioned from "miscellaneous woven scraps of fabric." It's upon closer inspection that the crude shapes of forks, knives and spoons become apparent; there is no symmetry but there is similarity, and together the utensils evoke the sensation of a cozy, kitschy kitchen.

One entire wall is devoted to the shiny, light-pink "Front Door," a massive reproduction of an entryway to a house constructed out of duct, packing and electrical tapes and lint. Puckett painstakingly re-creates the illusion with details like an arched transom and faux window-pane insets. When you reach out to open it, only an empty circle represents the doorknob. Puckett's pieces can be more subtle, such as "Cry"; made from a mishmash of dishtowels, wire, thread, yarn and tablecloth, it looks like a tattered, scrunched-up dish rag that's had more than its share of soakings. 

The downside of Recycled, Wrapped and Sewn is that summer hours are in effect for the gallery, so access is limited to weekdays – and don't get stung by the early closing at noon on Friday.

— Lindy T. Shepherd

;; [email protected]


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