Art beat

Animal party

KENWOOD — In one of Julie Buffalohead’s recent mixed-media drawings on paper now showing at Bockley Gallery, a jackrabbit wraps its arm around a plump, pink stuffed bunny, mimicking the toy’s vacant, stitched-on smile.

In the toy’s cottony mitt is an even smaller doll in Native American dress. The jackrabbit points one eyeball at the viewer, as if it’s asking, “Can you believe this?”

Buffalohead, a member of Oklahoma’s Ponca Tribe, employs a whole woodland menagerie in her artwork, and in the tradition of Native American storytelling they are often stand-ins or archetypes, representative of a person or an aspect of human character. But she never makes it so straightforward, telling stories that are layered — like that nested, triple embrace of jackrabbit, stuffed animal and doll — and, it often seems, intensely personal.

Buffalohead can be droll, arming a fox and rabbit against one of Columbus’ ships, afloat in a bathtub, or darkly mysterious. She often appears in her work wearing a mask and, in one drawing, she stands above a nest of animals like a protective spirit, disguised as a wolf.

These little dramas of the personal and political play out in a horizon-less dreamspace, populated by Buffalohead and her menagerie but little else. While the animals make mischief, Buffalohead remains firmly in control.

Collected

LOWRY HILL — The third edition of Blake Collects, an art exhibition series with pieces drawn from the collections of The Blake School’s current families, alumni and faculty, opened to the public in October, and if you haven’t ever been to the school’s modern, light-filled gallery, now’s a good time to check it out.

The theme this year is “Challenging Assumptions” — on gender, race, politics and so on — and what could have been a grab bag of disparate pieces comes off as a fairly cohesive show, one with a few truly standout pieces.

“Supposed to Be,” a short video by Southern California artist Nery Gabriel Lemus, is one of those. A stocky, middle-aged man stares straight ahead, silent, while the camera shifts between extreme close-ups of his lips and black moustache, his red-rimmed eyes and black hair. He appears to be Latino, but the first person narration, in subtitles, anticipates our assumption and (just as the title of the show promises) challenges it. 

We get glimpses into art books by Jeffrey Morin and Brian Borchardt, both members of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point arts department. Morin quotes from the letters home of World War II sailor and Borchardt recasts the biblical story of David and Jonathan, and both depict men expressing surprisingly tender emotions.

A highlight of the show is reading Karen Schneider’s story about her father, Herb’s, groovy watercolors, several of which are included in the show. Prominently displayed in the Schneider household during the ’60s and ’70s youth, their not-so-subtle references to sex and sexuality were a source of embarrassment then, though they’re cherished, now.

The Blake School’s student Justice League hosts a discussion on the exhibition 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Nov. 1. The event is free and open to the public.

Cartomancy

WHITTIER — If you’re into illustration and design, you’ve got to love Light Grey Art Lab.

They get an idea for a group show, recruit dozens of artists to contribute and get the whole thing up on the walls in their gallery in what seems like almost no time at all, so that any exhibition there feels like a snapshot of what some of the best young artists and designers are doing right now. Their latest project, an illustrated tarot with 78 contributors, is just the latest example.

Light Grey Art Lab founder Lindsay Nohl said many a young artist has been enticed by the illustration possibilities of the symbolically layered tarot, only to balk at producing the six dozen-plus separate images required. The artists who responded to the art lab’s call for submissions each illustrated just one card, chosen at random from the deck.

The business side of the art lab is Paper Bicycle Creative, a design studio, so it was only natural Nohl and her crew produced an actual deck to go along with the show. Of the 1,000 copies produced, about 500 made it through shipping undamaged, and they’re sure to be a hot item at the opening.