"Tales" at School 33 brings together six artists whose works contain personal narratives. But the show only partly lives up to its title. For a personal narrative to become a "tale," a story with general application, it has to meet the viewer halfway. If it's so particular to the artist that the viewer can't connect, or if its meaning is too broad and obvious, we don't get very much out of it.
Pamela Li's small bead sculptures illustrate the good and bad of this show: Two communicate and two don't. "No Sushi Tonight" acts as an amusing comment on our eating habits. A big fish gobbles up a human being, whole and uncooked. We take it as a given that we consume other living things but other living things don't consume us. But suppose the tables were turned, this work says; it might be worth thinking about.
In "Delusions of Childhood" a dark-haired Asian girl sits in front of a mirror in which she sees a blond-haired Western girl, who she may want to become but never will. We are able to control and change some aspects of our lives, but not all.
On the other hand, neither Li's "Family Vacation" nor her "Glass Skate" shed any meaningful light on their subjects, though both are attractive small sculptures.
Sam Christian Holmes' tin and copper sculptures of everyday objects, often fitted with photographs of people we take to be his family members, find a way to be particular to both the artist and us. "To My Darling" takes the form of an ironing board on which sit a shirt and an iron. Tucked into the shirt pocket is a picture of a woman, surely the artist's mother. Until something like this brings it home to us, we seldom think about how much love goes into the everyday tasks of caring for the family.
And "Going Home Throne for Uncle George," a chair with objects of clothing on it, reminds us of the inevitability of loss. We all have lots of Uncle Georges who have gone home.
The peculiar looking people in Beth Johnson's prints are fun to look at and some go beyond that, especially "How Devine Can Two Women Be." These two mutually congratulatory and very un-"devine" (sic) looking women have a lot to say about self-delusion, a quality we all share to some degree.
David Little's huge (8 by 16 feet) pastel and crayon drawing "State of Flux" is about as personal as you can get, and yet it comes across, too. The room he shows us stands for the artist's mind, crammed with people and objects.
Little has visualized the mixture, often chaotic, of past and present, of wanted and unwanted thoughts that runs through our minds all the time.
Like all of us, Ellen Harper and Lynda Andrews-Barry have personal narratives to relate, but their respective paintings fail to make meaningful tales of them.
Upstairs in Gallery II are a half-dozen paintings by Walter Kravitz, a Washington artist of distinction and power. His human-like, headless forms are distorted into orgies of writhing shapes that connote both individual agonies and world-ending, cataclysmic upheavals.
Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light Street.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through nov. 24.
Call: (410) 396-4641.