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For years, Raine Bedsole has crafted whimsical boats — spindly, ethereal vessels that appear to have been built for navigating the seas of myths and dreams more than any real body of water. Over time her oeuvre has expanded to include the human form, trees, old letters, poetic texts and even totemic oars embellished to incorporate all of the above. This show is partly inspired by Homer's Odyssey and the hurricane refugees still striving to return to New Orleans and rebuild. But literary analogies are only part of the picture, and she is concerned with connections in a deeper symbolic sense. The sinews of her raw materials often correlate with the strands of experience from which life itself is woven.

  Opposite Banks is a canoelike form woven from gossamer branches that look more like a bird's nest than anything nautical. Its intense lapis blue coloring, seemingly fused into venous wooden tendrils, suggests it was meant to navigate the night sky like the barques that ferried the Egyptian pharaohs to the next life. Gulf is a bas-relief with a boat formed from flat strips of copper seemingly traversing a pale lunar sea. In some places the chalky whiteness, actually plaster, parts like sea foam to reveal an old map of the Gulf of Mexico; elsewhere it suggests cracked walls invisibly tattooed with ghostly memories. Some nearby treelike assemblages feature bark made from lines of printed poetry, returning language literally to its roots in the earthly world. In the rear of the gallery, some old wooden oars stand like sentinels bearing mysterious signs and markings, some in distinctly female proportions. In Bedsole's world, women are vessels of human experience inseparable from the forces of nature they navigate.

Raine Bedsole: Recent Work

Through June

Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia St., 525-0518;


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