School 33's latest main gallery exhibit -- one of its more thought-provoking recent shows -- is called "Anti-Gravity." It might better be called "Gender Concerns."
The works of the show's four women artists each have something to do with flying or otherwise defying gravity. The figures on Patricia Autenrieth's quilts are pictured as a falling Icarus in one case and a constellation in another. Kay Dilisio's sculptures are high off the floor on wooden stilts. Beckie Laughlin says her paintings of circles within circles have to do with levitation and flying in dreams. And Charma Le Edmonds' fine surrealist drawings and watercolors appear to exist in a space divorced from the Earth.
But that's not what these works are really about. They have more to do with gender. Dilisio's works lampoon the myth of male superiority by putting phallic symbols in carefully protected surroundings -- unapproachable because they are surrounded by pointed sticks, for instance. These imply that the symbol of male dominance (and by extension the male himself) is as weak as the king in chess, who has to be defended by all the other pieces, including the powerful queen.
Autenrieth's quilts compare the female with the nurturing aspects of nature. This is especially true of her best work here, the handsome "Leafheart," but the idea also exists behind the humorous "Starry Night." In this, woman is transformed into a constellation in which the stars are all made up of references to junk food. The implication is that women go farther than you might think on the essentially inadequate sustenance they get (including from men, we can infer).
Laughlin's paintings, a couple of which are mesmerizing in their deep colors, consist of rounded shapes that suggest wombs, eyes and eggs, all ofwhich play the role of receiver. This suggestion of woman as the receiver and transformer of life comes through much more strongly than any sense of levitation or flying.
Le Edmonds' works, which constitute the most elegant art in the show, also refer to woman as receiver, and contain male and female symbols. But they exist, too, as pure celebrations of beauty, especially the two watercolors, "Lobo" and "Coming Home." It's tempting to say that they alone are worth the price of admission to this show, but the price of admission is nothing and they're worth a lot more than that.
Upstairs in Gallery II is "Patterns," a series of pattern paintings by Rick Morris. Although they have no particular content, they are much more substantial than "pattern paintings" may sound.
Morris has a fine sense of color and composition, and his brushwork, without being overly obvious, gives his surfaces texture and depth. One could stretch a bit and ascribe moods to these paintings, but it's not necessary. When the purely visual is satisfying enough on its own terms it doesn't need meaning to make it worthwhile, and that's the case with Morris' work.
WOMEN ON THE SEXES
What: "Anti-Gravity" and "Patterns"
Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.
When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Sept. 29
$ Call: (410) 396-4641