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  Inspiration is mysterious; no one really knows where it comes from. Artists rely on it, but so do the curators who assemble art shows. Loyola's Diboll Gallery curator Karoline Schleh said the inspiration for the current Portrait expo came unexpectedly while visiting Graffiti Graphics on Oak Street. There she encountered an assemblage created from old United Way employee photo-ID badges hanging from a neon "vacancy" sign found on Airline Highway after Katrina. For Schleh it symbolized "all the missing New Orleanians who evacuated and left shells of workplaces and homes behind."

  Vacancy by Henry Holzenthal is memorable for seeming to have serendipitously fallen into place, as if by the invisible hand of fate rather than the corporeal hand of Holzenthal. But it also reflects of the diversity of a show that spans everything from traditional oil paintings to abstract or conceptual renditions of a wide array of subjects. The results are not always predictable. Gina Phillips' Hair vs. Face is vaguely alarming as what initially suggests a sewn fabric rendition of the artist's visage morphs into a nebulous mass on close inspection, like a photograph marinated in floodwaters.   

  This contrasts with Adrian Deckbar's Study in Light and Dark, a portrait of a woman, and Alexander Stolin's Portrait of the Artist's Son, both examples of why sensitively rendered oil paintings never seem to lose their appeal. Other works such as David Fithian's Question Man, a pop portrait of a dude whose hair suggests a question mark, or Myrtle von Damitz's hauntingly weird self-portrait, Stricken, evoke unsettled states of mind that may also correlate with broader social or cultural upheavals. In that sense, a selection of dreamlike portraits by Louisiana Imagists Jacqueline Bishop, Douglas Bourgeois and Elizabeth Fox convey the uncanny charisma of subjects who rose from humble origins to embody the dreams and aspirations of a generation.

PORTRAIT: Group Exhibition of Portraits in Various Media by 28 Artists

Through August

Collins Diboll Gallery, Loyola University., 6363 St. Charles Ave., 865-2186;

www.loyno.edu/dibollgallery

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