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Muses: Recent Work by Female Artists 

Just who are Muses, anyway? In mythology, they are the daughters of Zeus who became protectors of art and science, but the Muses in this show are mostly daughters of Louisiana who reflect their own uniquely female points of view in unusual and unexpected ways. Often conceptual or abstract, the variety of visions can be challenging.

  The Carnivalesque abstraction Flow (pictured), by New York-based Louisiana native Margaret Evangeline, suggests the serpentine flames of Mardi Gras flambeaux as well as the elusive aura of female charisma. Related in tone, yet very different in execution, is Opelousas artist Shawne Major's massive mixed-media tapestry, Poly-Haptic. Made from beads, trinkets and costume jewelry, it explores the relationships between the ephemeral and the ethereal, the chaos of the streets after a parade has passed and the precious beaded dresses reclaimed from grandma's attic.

  All of this is a far cry from the subtle yet colorfully effusive abstraction Smoke and Laughter by Adrée Carter. Building on abstract expressionism, Carter infuses her work with her uniquely personal perspective. The serpentine curve returns in the elegant simplicity of Anastasia Pelias' Automatic Painting (Red, Blue), a study in the sinuous and sensuous. Monica Zeringue's large, figurative graphite drawing, Structure 4, takes us to the traditions of figurative realism — or does it? In this drawing, Zeringue arranges mysterious young girls in a dreamlike composition rife with poetic ambiguity and psychic complexity in a haunting new hybrid that somehow resonates, at least compositionally, with Michel Varisco's vast tree photo, Ribbon, as well as the box assemblage Collecting Dreams by the mysterious paragon of inner-child surrealism, Audra Kohout. Throw in Sharon Jacques' surreal mixed-media construction Captivate; Elizabeth Shannon's large, conceptual installation Louisiana Emblem, with its psychiatrist's couch and bureaucratic numerology; and Regina Scully's expressionistic painting, City, and you have a provocative show that reads like a Rorschach test. No two people will see it in the same way — a challenge that may also be its strength. — D. Eric Bookhardt

MUSES: Recent Work by Female Artists

Through Feb. 20

Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriardcimino.com

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