Art Capsule Reviews

Diane Arbus, Family Albums The mother who challenged compulsory prayer in public schools. The doctor who treated poverty and its side effects (hunger, parasites) as diseases needing cures. Diane Arbus assembled these and many other figures for Family Albums, a project the photographer left uncompleted before her death. We recognize some of the subjects for their blood relationships: Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother smiles eerily throughout an afternoon photo shoot; her cat’s-eye glasses look like they’d fit just about anyone better than they do her. Others, such as Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, fill symbolic family roles. Arbus took some of the pictures on assignment for Esquire, and others are from her personal portfolio. As in real family albums, the photos offer private glimpses of people at home who are still posing, self-conscious and aware of being observed. Arbus tunes in to the vulnerability people feel when asked to allow a journalist or photographer (and, by extension, the public) into their private worlds — her subjects appear sometimes flawed but always human. You believe in the portrait of Jayne Mansfield embracing her daughter in a way you will never believe anything you see among members of the Osbourne family on MTV. Through Jan. 16 at the Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi in Lawrence, 785-864-4710. (G.K.)

Cross Stitch, Craft Medium Redefined Embroidery and other crafty practices are still considered pretty girly, in spite of efforts to the contrary (and a few male names on the price list). That’s OK. Just because some ladies now bond in locker rooms and others over superficially feminist TV shows such as Sex in the City does not mean that some can’t go on enjoying the basic, dual pleasures of needle and thread, embracing modern ways without letting people treat cross-stitching like a second class citizen of the art world. The work in this show displays both variety and ingenuity. Highlights include the deep-red, sacred-heart-inspired collage pieces by Lawrence artist Kendra Herring; the unfathomably precise, illustratorly works (it’s hard to believe the perfect lines are stitched and not inked) by Maggy Rozycki Hiltner; Stacy Neff’s layered paper cutouts with detailing provided not only by actual embroidery but also by the holes left behind when needles puncture paper; and Leigh Ann Lester’s disturbing, anatomical portraits of lung cancer, stroke and heart attack. Through Jan. 8 at the Bank, 11th St. and Baltimore, 816-221-5115. (G.K.)

Daddy Says Good art and art that you want to hang above your sofa are not the same thing. The work in Lori Raye Erickson’s solo show Daddy Says is a case in point. Are the two paintings of injured women — the first reading “Mommy Fell” and the second adding “Again” — good? Yes. But in spite of their domestic theme, these are paintings most of us would rather not display in a nursery or a bedroom. Some of Erickson’s works could be delightful in a study or a library, such as the humorous painting of two girls holding hands — one all frills and the other in shorts — that says “Twins are Weird.” Especially skillful and original are her multimedia paintings with three-dimensional trinkets attached. Erickson shines at this technique, and we’re pleased to see her return to it. (There’s even a stitched-wound homage to her earlier “Fluff” paintings, which longtime fans will appreciate.) But don’t be ashamed if you’d rather see these mostly abuse-themed pieces in a gallery than at home. After all, there’s something to be said for art that goes beyond décor. That’s why the Green Door Gallery calls itself “a safe venue for unsafe art.” Through Dec. 11 at 1229 1/2 Union Ave. in the West Bottoms, 816-421-6889. (G.K.)

Manipulated Realities: From Pop Art to New Realism Photo-realist artists feel the need to paint pictures that look as real as photographs — instead of actually taking photographs — because they are control freaks: As painters, they can control every detail. Each artist in Manipulated Realities, curator John Buchanan says, “manipulates reality in an effort to send an individual message.” For example, in a print commissioned for Myra Morgan’s collection, John Baeder changes the name of a diner to “Morgan’s,” and Richard Estes substitutes his own name for signage over a shop in one of his mind-numbingly detailed street scenes. But not all of the artists in this show are driven by ego. Richard Pettibone paints tiny reproductions of other artists’ full-sized paintings. Pettibone’s “Chris Cross: Hooker Headers” is displayed right next to Chris Cross’ “Hooker Headers,” an extreme close-up of a motorcycle in which a desert landscape is reflected in the bike’s chrome. Weighing in at an overwhelming 121 paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs, the show would benefit from editing, but overall it’s a great opportunity to see a lot of realist art in one spot. Through Jan. 7, 2005, at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250 (T.B.)

Moving In Is Moving Out Filing, folding laundry, shoveling leftovers into Tupperware bins, transferring receipts from a wallet to a shoebox — because of the utter dullness of storage, the location and premise of a show at a storage facility in a blighted Topeka neighborhood might sound less than promising. Don’t be fooled. The storage facility — dubbed “FLEX” — was built by the progressive Kansas City architecture firm El Dorado in hopes of inspiring what can only be called suburban renewal. If the effort works, the building could easily be converted from a storage facility to a retail space. And the big surprise is that it’s an attractive structure, one that actually glows on one side, with giant silhouettes of passers-by projected onto the exterior walls. For now, the building’s compartments are filled with installations by Kansas City artists Mike Sinclair, Jordan Nickel, Marcie Miller-Gross, James Woodfill and Miles Neidinger. Of special note is the room with colorful plastic hangers hooked into the wire-cage ceiling. On the night of the opening, T-shirts with slogans such as “Re-Move,” “U Moving Me” and “Seriously, I’m Free” hung from these. The message, loud and clear, was: Steal the shirts. A video loop capturing the T-shirt thieves at work — transforming the space from a dense maze of cotton blend into an open, airy hanger-mobile display — plays for visitors. Through Dec. 18 at 447 S.E. 29th St. in Topeka, 816-444-4414, ext. 1. (G.K.)

Categories: A&E