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A LOSS FOR WORDS: Works by Jacqueline Bishop and Douglas Bourgeois

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This two-person exhibition of recent work by Jacqueline Bishop and Douglas Bourgeois is startling in a number of ways. Both artists bring a mind-boggling deftness to the act of painting, with imagery you might need a magnifying glass to appreciate fully. Beyond obsessive technique, both display qualities of imagination that take us on a journey to fantastically beautiful other worlds and makes us realize these otherworldly places are really, in one way or another, situated in our own backyards.

  Bourgeois lives in St. Amant in Assumption Parish and psychically inhabits a lush frontier where American pop culture bumps against bayou country and ancient mythology. In Skeletor and Venus, a nude, Creole Venus appears in a colorfully shabby kitchen where a Skeletor-like robot is about to raid her refrigerator. Both seem oblivious to ankle-deep flooding and a Leda-like swan paddling beneath the Depression-era kitchen table in a scene that is provincial yet universal in its mythic overtones. His painted collages and woodcuts extend those themes more abstractly, and his lovingly painted school yearbook portraits somehow meld the parochial and the universal in a unique blend of down-home alchemy.

  For years, Jacqueline Bishop's surreal landscapes have been strange zones where creation and destruction, beauty and danger, seem to coexist. Inspired by Brazil's Amazon rainforests and Louisiana's coastal ecology, her elaborate paintings reveal hidden places in the swamp, the rainforest and the mind, probing their inner secrets. All things are connected through sinewy creepers and invisible ecology. Birds are both spirits and messengers, and nests are ecological reliquaries adrift in an increasingly alien universe, as we see in Lost Worlds (pictured). Bishop's notions of cosmic connectedness find further expression in a series of collage paintings featuring ink portraits of birds superimposed on newsprint from around the world, as well as in a series of delicate landscapes painted on baby shoes scavenged from the streets of New Orleans, Brazil and Peru. The show brings together the work of two artists whose unique yet related visions articulate the global nature of the local, and vice versa. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Through February

Arthur Roger @434, 434 Julia St., 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com

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