Whitfield Lovell collects old photographs of African-Americans, often decked out in their best suits and posed formally before the camera. Displaying fine draftsmanship, he recreates their images on wooden planks and then incorporates antique symbolic objects in his eloquent sculptural assemblages. Deuce is emblematic: A black couple from a century ago posed with a Victorian chair. Extending from the front of the sepia wooden planks is a tabletop covered in antique lace and vintage silverware. The vintage objects and eerily photographic images contribute to a resonant sense of "presence" that allows us entry into a time and place different from our own, yet so familiar that we can readily relate. Here we sense their uniqueness as well as something common to us all — and common to our own ancestors — regardless of time, place or ethnicity. In Lenox we see a nattily dressed man looking dignified in a homburg and zoot suit atop a totem of vintage radios, and it's easy to imagine a personal story for this possible jazz musician. More unsettling is Cut (pictured), a view of a black woman rendered on planks and framed by antique hatchets and wallpaper. Lovell lets our imaginations wander in these skillfully crafted time capsules whose residents graciously invite us in without entirely obscuring their all too human undercurrents.
Octavia Gallery features the work of outsider artists such as the late Rev. Howard Finster, who once saw a human face that told him to make sacred art in his fingerprint. Juanita Rogers was compelled by other spirits to make sculpture from mud and moss, bones and graveyard dirt, while New Orleans' own Willie White saw visions of fantastic prehistoric birds, dragons and flying horses over Central City. Clearly, mysticism is alive and well, and these artists, among others in the expo, are happy to share it with us. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Recent Work: Mixed-Media Assemblages by Whitfield Lovell
Through April 17
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com
Visions From the South: An Exhibition of Outsider Artists
Through April 24
Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249; www.octaviaartgallery.com