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Review: Mark of the Feminine 

D. Eric Bookhardt on a mixed-media group exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center

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Even by the standards of large institutional survey exhibitions, the Contemporary Arts Center's Mark of the Feminine expo of works by local women artists covers a wide range of styles and visions. The sheer diversity is daunting at first as we are confronted with artworks ranging from meticulously linear concoctions such as Monica Zeringue's large, graphite She Wolf self-portrait (pictured) and Gabrielle Gaspard's intimate intaglio print of female hands impossibly bound with delicately thin thread to raucously outrageous works like Sarah Sole's satiric paintings of Hillary Clinton acting out in unlikely situations and Vanessa Centeno's large, surreal soft-sculpture Get It Up, which suggests a lurid sea anemone from outer space. Curated by Regine Basha, the works in this show are united by their psychological vibe and suggestive ambiguity, though exactly what they suggest depends on the viewer. More broadly, it's like a travelogue exploration of the far corners of the female psyche as interpreted by female artists in this complicated city.

  While artists like Zeringue are well-known, the show features a rich assortment by less familiar and emerging artists. Emblematic works include Kristin Meyers' spookily spectacular Anoint sculpture, which suggests a synthesis of an African spirit fetish and hoodoo bottle tree and resonates a feral tribal vitality. A related if more modern sensibility appears in Armina Mussa's Ana-Beaucoup mixed-media photo collage of a Creole woman shrouded in a crown of flowers, mounted in a sackcloth frame. Similarly vibrant, if more familiar, textures appear in Cherice Harrison-Nelson's Rise Up! Queen Suit, her shamanistic Mardi Gras Indian suit rumination on impermanence, continuity and traditions that transcend time. Wry commentaries on modern lifestyles appear in Susan Ireland's vivid canvases of offbeat social encounters in colorfully painted barrooms and in Ronna Harris' realistic Marital Bliss painting of elegant bedroom ennui. Here Basha's fecund mashup — her meandering psychic estuary of a show — proves that, around here at least, more is sometimes actually more.

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