Artbeat

 ARTBEAT

You might expect to find an exhibition called "The Everglades: Recent Paintings" at a South Florida gallery. You'd be wrong, at least in the case of painter Elizabeth Thompson. While her subject matter is the Sunshine State's greatest natural wonder and her home of 30 years is Ocean Ridge, on the coast near Boynton Beach, Thompson's one-woman show is at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in New York City's Soho neighborhood. There and on her own website. Which just goes to show how diffuse the art world has become. Like many a South Florida transplant, Thompson shuttles back and forth between here and New York. Instead of schizophrenia, however, she gets the best of both worlds. "Shopping malls and the Everglades are roughly equidistant from my house," Thompson notes in her artist's statement for "The Everglades," which features 20 oil paintings ranging in size from 20 by 24 inches to 60 by 70 inches. The artist calls these works from the past couple of years "flat paintings," which eschew spatial depth in favor of close-up, you-are-there intimacy. Catalog essayist Lilly Wei captures the effect: "The color in Thompson's oil paintings is... mostly green, an extensive range that distinguishes palmetto leaves, saw grass, air plants, vines, ferns, mosses, reflective pools of shimmered water contrasted with cypress sloughs slivered with light and pale, blasted tree trunks, aglow with roseate and violet undertones." Some of the images are reproduced with unusual crispness at www.elizabeththompsonstudios.com. (Through October 27 at the Walter Wickiser Gallery, 568 Broadway, Suite 104B, New York. Call 212-941-1817.) -- Michael Mills

NOW ON DISPLAY

"Sequined Surfaces: Haitian Vodou Flags" -- Somewhere along the way from Haiti to Hollywood, vodou became voodoo, and the island nation's rich religious stew of Roman Catholic, West African, Carib, and Freemason traditions was boiled down to B-movie zombies and not much else. This show goes a long way toward correcting that stubborn misperception. The exhibition, drawn from the collection of Plantation-based writer and Haitian art dealer Candice Russell, is a lively look at one of the Western Hemisphere's most fascinating indigenous folk arts. Working primarily with sequins and glass beads sewn onto panels of fabrics ranging from cotton to satin, flag artists portray loas, the vodou pantheon of spirits as varied as Catholic saints. And since each loa has its distinct personality as well as its own sacred days and favorite items, there's plenty of source material to draw from for the imagery. The female loa Erzulie, for example, is a Virgin Mary variant partial to perfume, alcohol, cake, silk, and lace, while the agricultural deity Cousin Zaka is associated with bread, tobacco, and raw rum. (Through November 7 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)

"Diana, A Celebration" -- This show is even more lacking in actual art than last year's Vatican show at MoA. We get battered childhood toys, a few dozen of Diana's steppin'-out gowns, photographs of the Spencer family estate, a looped tape of Elton John singing "A Candle in the Wind," a very valuable-looking tiara (the impression of value reinforced by the presence of two edgy guards hovering next to it), and the Wedding Dress. Ah, the Dress. It's big, all right. There are 25 yards of silk taffeta in it, 100 yards of tulle crinoline, and 150 yards of veil netting, and it's mounted on a faceless mannequin in a 30-foot-long glass case; every inch of its 25-foot train is on full display. But somehow, it doesn't live up to the hype. This is one clunker of a gown. You're left with the impression that the royal matriarchs, Queen E. and the Queen Mum, had Diana tightly in their clutches. The dress must have been suffocating to wear. Pictures of Diana in it somehow bring back a long-forgotten impulse to rescue her -- to leap into that vast froth of fabric and drag her coughing and gasping back to shore -- and the show prompts a similar impulse. Can we drag the real Diana out of there? (Through December 31 at the Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)

 
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