Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bedsole at Bienvenu; Butter at Barrister's


Raine Bedsole once stumbled upon a fleet of derelict WWII Navy vessels moored along the Tensaw River in Alabama. Surrounded by dense fog, they looked ghostly, like massive memories suspended in ether. Now Bedsole makes her own vessels, but hers are far smaller. Like spindly canoes or kayaks clad in paper in the form of old photos, children's drawings, scraps of antique maps, ledgers and engravings, they comprise a skein of dreams or a litany of lost moments from the everyday lives of the past. Lit from above and casting portentous shadows, some glow like Japanese lanterns. The ancient Egyptians used to send their deceased away in boats that were guided across the heavens by Anubis, the dog god, but elsewhere it was birds that embodied the spirits of the departed. On the back wall of the gallery there is a pair of large wings that, like the boats, are made up of prosaic paper scraps from the past. Here the spirits of the departed may have taken flight, but every boat carries a contemplative cargo of dreams, memories and misplaced moments.

Lillian Butter's paintings and drawings at Barrister's are all about the lifestyle of a certain subculture of pierced and tattooed wanderers who locally cluster in the St. Roch neighborhood. As expressionistic as anything by George Grosz, the works on view seem to reflect the musings of a fantastic and tortuous imagination—or so we thought until her subjects showed up en masse at her opening, revealing once and for all that Butter is actually a realist. Either way, this Canadian punkster who divides her time between Toronto and Nola is a talented artist as well as the recording angel of a particular milieu. What Toulouse-Lautrec was to the Paris demimonde of the past, Butter is to the St. Roch subculture of the present.

GHOST FLEET: Sculpture and Works on Paper by Raine Bedsole, Through May 22, Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia St., 525-0518;
LOST LITTLE GIRL'S ART SHOW: Paintings and Drawings by Lillian Butler, Through May 7, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506;