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Window dressing, real and conceptual

By Cate McQuaid, Globe Correspondent, 05/06/99

ressmaker Regina Frank takes the art of the seamstress and transforms it into beautiful, conceptual commentary on the self and society in her show at the Clifford-Smith Gallery. Frank, a German artist and visiting faculty member at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, calls her exhibition ''Mother of Perl,'' a play on the name of a computer programming language and the beads that oysters make.

The artist uses both in her work, mounted as part of the Cyberarts Festival. She makes leaps that encompass the tangible and the virtual, and that work in both space and time. There's one installation here, a variety of small works, and documentation of previous installations, including ''L'adieu,'' a performance Frank did in a window at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. 

She stitched pearls onto a silk gown over a period of days. Each day, a neon display above her head broadcast the hourly wage of a woman somewhere in the world. She started out at $17.10, the wage in Norway, and ended at 20 cents, the wage in Indonesia. She bought bread and flowers to demonstrate the purchase power of the wages, and spread them on the floor of the performance space, along with bowls steeped with pearls. The installation, as shown here in digital prints, and the resulting evening gown, is beautiful and humbling.

The installation on view, ''A Dress,'' comprises a white gown with a flowing skirt mounted on a dressmaker's dummy. The skirt, anchored to the floor by black boots, houses a computer. During this piece's first installation in 1995, the artist traveled and e-mailed every day to ''A Dress,'' and the printouts of the letters hang from the interior of the skirt, each pinned to a black leaf polka-dotting the outside of the fabric.

Frank's dresses become a metaphor for the self and a costume for society. They reference oppression, but also tender undercurrents of the soul and a person's need to thrive and connect.

Michael Mazur may be best known for his paintings and prints, but he knows that the origins of his work lie in drawing. ''A line is both itself and the edge of everything else,'' he says in a statement accompanying a small show of his drawings at the Horn Gallery at Babson College. What better place to begin?

The show spans the artist's drawings from 1961 to 1997. The earliest, ''Kathe as a Baby,'' is studies in sepia ink of the sleeping infant. The delicate lines convey the heft and slumber of the baby. To draw something is to truly see it, and to make a line is to caress. You can see Mazur's love for the baby.

''Copper Beech'' (1985), a charcoal piece, shows the upper section of a massive trunk where the branches begin to split and stretch away from the tree like children. Take a deep breath and fall into this beech's embrace; it feels at once giant and maternal, majestic and utterly ordinary, and there's something soothing about that. ''Recurved Lily'' (1982), charcoal studies of the graceful petals of a lily slowly unfurling, tease and seduce.

Over the years the drawings become deeper, more layered, and more abstract. Two are from the ''Branching'' series, which Mazur showed at the DeCordova last year. In them, he creates space with lines that open into shadows and frenetic fibers that dance along the surface. 

Mazur's exhibit is a small one, but it doesn't take much. This artist shows us how it's done.

The Bromfield Gallery joins the legions of area venues celebrating the Cyberarts Festival with a group show of work that ranges from art on a computer monitor to mixed-media pieces you never would have guessed had anything to do with a computer.

Jocelyn Scheirer belongs to the first category. In ''Elements,'' she charts the physical manifestation of certain emotions and funnels them through an algorithm to create an evolving visual manifestation of the psyche. It's such a cool idea that what it looks like almost doesn't matter (so it goes with some conceptual art), but the bright, bubbling images could be a picture of cells reproducing.

In her Iris print, ''Ghost Town Stairwell,'' Naomi Ribner layers images and visual textures like lacy veils. Nearby hangs Adam Sherman's ''Double Black,'' fuzzy white diamonds glowing from two black lengths of silk, a myopic view of a grid of stars. 

Carmin Karasic's Iris prints are gold-toned rivers of imagery bubbling around a figure with closed eyes. ''Genetic Coderush'' features a DNA helix and shadowy skeletons; ''Coderush Logic'' shows the head coming through an engineering diagram. It's like the codes of existence through which the flesh of ideas, art, and understanding push.

Blyth Hazen's ''Selections From the Algebra Drawings'' appeals because it's interactive. The viewer can touch a computer monitor, and a drawing will begin to trace itself automatically. The random element of the drawings makes their aesthetic value chancy. Sachiko Beck's untitled digital images burst from the paper in brilliant, edgy colors. Jennifer Hicks paints over digital images of drawings she scanned, but you can't see them beneath the paint. So what's the point?

The computer as artist's tool has come a long way. This show speaks to its versatility.

This story ran on page D01 of the Boston Globe on 05/06/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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