Nature gives and nature takes away. Weather and wild animals have always caused people to seek shelter, and the botanical world has often provided it, along with food and medicine. The "Leaves of Grass" references in the work of poet Walt Whitman and the Bible refer to the common vulnerabilities of people and plants, and some recent works by two New Orleans artists visually extend the metaphor. Keith Perelli is known for virtuoso painterly illusionism, but in this show he demonstrates admirable command of the notoriously fickle medium of monotypes, as well as some larger and more elaborate collages. All feature the human form and found objects, especially leaves. In Broken (pictured), the noble head on a man with braided hair tops a body that looks more like a husk of leaves, paint and litter. Bisected down the middle, his torso is stitched in a futile effort to make him whole again. In Y, a female nude with a Nefertiti profile and leafy limbs poses in a space that blurs the boundary between inside and outside, and here Perelli melds the patterning of the botanical and the human realms to suggest a healing elemental chrysalis.
Ann Schwab has long explored the healing potential of the plant kingdom in her photography-based mixed-media concoctions. Her delicate assemblages of wing-like maple seeds bound with thread to an encaustic base are visual parables of the tension between action and the quiescent repose of regeneration. It's a theme that recurs in various works that pristinely pair broken limbs with verdant growth in a metaphor for trauma and regeneration in the plant kingdom. But Schwab takes a turn toward the wet and wild in her Ultrasound series of photographs of dramatically glowing jellyfish accompanied by a recorded sound loop of her child's heartbeat in the womb, a visual ode to the ocean as the amniotic sea from which earthly life was born. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Monotypes: Recent Work by Keith Perelli
Through Dec. 3
d.o.c.s. gallery, 709 Camp St., 524-3936; www.docsgallery.com
Pure: Photographic Mixed Media Works by Ann Schwab
CoLAB Projects, 527 St. Joseph St., 566.8999; www.colabprojects.com