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Michele Basta 

Michele Basta's hybrid creatures at Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium are fantastical by any measure. A mix of hallucinatory surrealism and a carnival sideshow take on mythology, her humanoid beasts are paradoxical in so many ways it is almost as if their mannequinlike appendages and oddly mammalian features were products of an alternate reality where such bizarre incongruities are normal. How else to explain From What I Remember/Metamorphosis, a cat-headed female wearing a tattered hoop skirt and long black gloves. With her lynxlike head thrown back as she appears to exhale a huge plume of crimson paper flames, she dominates her corner of the gallery while posing no end of enigmatic possibilities for which there are no immediate answers. In a nearby alcove, a related piece, Sphinx, inverts the equation with the body of a lioness below a human female upper torso topped with a demonic hybrid head. Instead of arms, she sprouts wings comprising hundreds of pages of poems in an extravagant new take on the term "literary lion."

  There also are some oddly expressive human heads that seem to sprout from Victorian-era spring-mounted mechanisms of mysterious provenance. For dog lovers there is Companion (pictured), a hyena with conjoined human and canine heads. On the walls are some Victorian-looking light boxes with glowing panels made of pressed flowers embedded in colored resin to yield a cathedral-like glow. But what gives Basta's beasts and light boxes their uncanny resonance is their sense of being artifacts from a parallel universe. Taking her cues from the esoteric inner symbolism of alchemy, Basta externalizes the baser demons that roam the wilds of the psyche in a process of transformation that puts their feral energy to use on behalf of a more holistic understanding of human potentiality, a quest that propelled both Carl Jung's psychology and no end of surrealist experimentation — parallel currents long known to Europeans, but only slowly coming to light on these shores. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Through Oct. 8

"And the Earth Begot..." Mixed Media Sculpture by Michele Basta

Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876;


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