Crafty seduction at Howard Community College

If the visual art exhibit "The ART of Seduction: Exquisitely Crafted Temptations" were a movie, it probably would receive a PG-13 rating. The ceramics, jewelry, sculpture and mixed-medium crafts on display in Howard Community College's Rouse Company Foundation Gallery tend to seduce you in subtle and surprising ways.

The exhibit's title might prompt you to expect to see figurative nudity, but the exhibit's several examples aren't the standard naked lady posing for your inspection. Curator Gail M. Brown goes for unexpected treatments of this traditional seductive subject.

Although Christyl Boger's glazed white earthenware sculpture "Figure with Dolphin" presents a figurative subject that would not have been unknown to ancient Greek and Roman sculptors, there's something a bit odd about seeing this nude woman seated next to an equally nude dolphin. Their sleek bodies are so complementary that they seem to have established some kind of primal bond that makes you wonder what they talk about. Moreover, the woman's nails and the dolphin's tail have been gilded with gold luster. Maybe they go to the same beauty parlor.

Boger's ceramic sculpture features two realistically rendered, complete figures, but Tanya Batura's untitled, black-painted clay sculpture has a prone female torso cropped so tightly that only one breast remains. There isn't much representational detail in Batura's sculpture, so it's your imagination that turns seductive curves into the fleshy equivalent.

Those two sculptures thematically fit within an exhibit that playfully avoids the usual curatorial approach to the art of seduction. One of the funniest such examples is Jessica Calderwood's "Eclair," an extremely well-crafted combination of enamel, copper, brass and laser-cut steel that resembles a serving plate. Its surface depicts two women eating eclairs. Anybody who has succumbed to seduction-by-eclair will agree that this is among the sexiest items in the show.

Other crafty items merit a smile, while also conveying a more pointed social message. Two related pieces by Catherine Winkler Rayroud, "Women's Liberation? What Liberation?" and "Set Yourself Free," are paper cut-outs in the shape of a black bra and panties; incidentally, the paper was cut with nail scissors. The cut-out imagery includes tiny depictions of women involved with child care and domestic chores, serving as a reminder of traditional gender roles.

Perhaps the largest single category of works in the show are the beautiful objects made out of improbable materials. Julia Barello's wall-hanging "Wisteria," for instance, uses recycled and dyed strips of X-ray film to emulate its flowers and leaves. Norwood Viviano's "First Generation Artifact: Tatted Lace Collar" has the sort of lovely floral detail you expect from lace-adorned clothing, but this piece is made of cast bronze. And Amy Long's "Conversation Piece" consists of a yellow sculptural form and a pink sculptural form that resemble something you would expect to find growing on a coral reef, but this piece is made out of crocheted and pulled wool yarn and stuffing.

Other artists in the exhibit also really like to make objects that allude to the natural world and the human presence in it.

Chris Gustin's "Vessel with Dimple #1002" is a lofty, earth-toned stoneware vase whose seductively curving sides would make Mae West envious. Ron Isaacs's acrylic on birch plywood construction, "A Marriage," is a simple, wall-mounted piece consisting of a doily-evocative panel supporting two crossed tree branches.

The human body is not directly alluded to in Matt Hutton's "Core Sample 10," a fir and ash construction whose curved slats instead resemble the sides of a boat. Its glistening wood grain is so attractive that you understand why so many, er, pleasure craft are named for women.

"The ART of Seduction: Exquisitely Crafted Temptations" runs through March 18 in the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., in Columbia. Go to

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