Art You Can Use

Two Gateway galleries stretch the boundaries between the decorative and the sublime.

Project Earth is big on banana fiber, a surprisingly versatile and durable resource. When it's made into thin lampshades, it diffuses the light and provides great textures, and it can be combined with papier-mâché to shape into bowls and trays. Both shops also carry an abundance of decorative abstract canvases made of the stuff, in panels of all shapes, hues, and patterns. Granted, these works are more craftsy than arty, but used judiciously they could enhance the look and feel of a room enormously.

Fedewicz and Dias have also expanded their selection of colorful work by Oficina de Agosto. This cooperative of Brazilian artists specializes in raw-finished frames that contain not canvases but grids of thick metal wires running through carved, painted wooden figures, usually of people or animals. One especially striking piece opts for the inanimate — bottles and glasses formed from wood.

Perhaps inevitably for a business that stocks such an amazing variety of merchandise, there is a lot of stuff that feels like filler. Some of the ceramics and glassware, for instance, isn't very interesting. And with so much competing for your attention, it can take some intense concentration to hone in on the items worth a closer look.

Much of Project Earth Design's merchandise, like these women's heads from Brazil, is banana fiber combined with papier mâché. Next photo: a stone sculpture from the patio.
C. Katz
Much of Project Earth Design's merchandise, like these women's heads from Brazil, is banana fiber combined with papier mâché. Next photo: a stone sculpture from the patio.
Acacia is at 1912 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. 954-463-8006

Project Earth Design is at 1948 E. Sunrise Blvd./901 NE 20th Ave.,

Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5453, and at 404 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park,

954-565-3144.

But just when you're on the verge of sensory overload, you might stumble upon something strange and fascinating, like the Raintree sculptures tucked away in one corner. These freestanding spires are actually the fossilized remains of trees that have been reclaimed 50 to 150 years after they were submerged under flood waters following, say, the construction of a dam. They've been shaped by aquatic creatures, the elements, and time, and they look as alien as something from another world, which in a sense they are.

A lot of what's best at Planet Earth is a similarly seductive blend of the familiar and the exotic, making the new expansion as welcome an addition to the Gateway area as Acacia.

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