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Altered States: New Work by Herman Mhire

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Herman Mhire produced more than 200 exhibitions by the time he retired in 2005 from his post as director of the art museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He was a distinguished professor of visual arts and a founder of the Festival International de Louisiane. In 2004, France named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. So one might wonder, when viewing his large photographic portraits at Martine Chaisson Gallery, how he got so over the top. He does not deny these portraits of well-known Acadian artists resemble the art of the insane, but he tells us he took up Photoshop a few years ago after a series of unsettling events caused him to immerse himself in something new. Formerly an exponent of a kind of ethereal photographic classicism, his new approach is like a classical pianist suddenly switching to death metal. So Kelly 2 becomes a horned demon with a goatee; Ralph 3 (pictured) is a human hedgehog with swirling vortexes for facial features; Lynda 2 is a Rorschach blot wearing lipstick, and in Francis 3, Francis Pavy resembles a glowing psychedelic avocado. A surprisingly effective outburst of digital Dadaism, this is what can happen when an elegant eye takes a walk on the wild side.

  Stefan Szczesny started out in Germany's Junge Wilde or "Wild Youth" movement of the 1970s, which evolved into Neoexpressionism, but today the Bavarian native lives in St. Tropez, France after following a wanderlust that took him to the Caribbean and other exotic places. These lush and breezy Earthly Paradise tableaux recall the French periods of Matisse in Nice or Paul Ninas in Martinique, and they can be seductive for the way they capture the curiously feminine allure of those balmy climes where sea breezes caress the senses and even danger is cloaked in a subtly lulling aesthetic. Needless to say, they look right at home in New Orleans. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Through April 23

Altered States: New Work by Herman Mhire

Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp St., 304-7942; www.martinechaissongallery.com

Through March 26

An Earthly Paradise: New Work by Stefan Szczesny

Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249; www.octaviaartgallery.com

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