You'll see Michael Ray Charles' works as powerful, controversial, or downright offensive, depending on your point of view. The black artist creates paintings using stereotypical images of African-Americans derived from popular culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In one set of works, for example, he portrayed Aunt Jemima as the Statue of Liberty, Rosie the Riveter, and Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. He's attempted to educate viewers about the ridiculous nature of racism with irony, but Charles' work is often criticized as inappropriate by those who feel that recycling negative images of blacks serves no purpose. Others, however, get the point, among them Charles collector Spike Lee, known for his own controversial statements on race. Lee has commented that Charles' work "is cinematic. His works are one-sheet posters for movies that the Hollywood studio system would not have the nerve to make, exploring class, race, and sex in this country." Charles' images are on view at the Schmidt Center Gallery in Stereo Typocal Errors: Michael Ray Charles and Joyce J. Scott, which runs through March 21. The gallery is located at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Admission is free. Call 561-297-2966.
Before it went to press, John Berendt's novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story was criticized by one of his agents as being "too regional." Needless to say, the guy is no longer Berendt's agent. Not only did the book kick ass, saleswise, in the United States, the story about a writer who moves from New York to Savannah and stumbles onto the murder of a wealthy socialite has been published in more than a dozen foreign languages and continues to sell in hardcover after almost five years. Berendt will appear at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Plantation (591 S. University Dr.), where he'll read from and sign copies of his book. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. event is free. Call 954-723-0489.