Fortunately, there are the porcelain and glass ceramics of Bonnie Seaman to provide welcome distraction. Seaman, who teaches at the University of Miami, works almost exclusively in a sort of melony golden orange with striations that suggest tissue. It's as if she has dissected a human body and used the flesh to fashion her exquisitely delicate and detailed teapots, supplemented by a few trays and bowls. Her use of tiny glass insects and flowers as accents jarringly amplifies the effect. She also gets considerable mileage out of mimicking the interior of a split pomegranate, which in her hands comes to suggest nothing so much as a womb dotted with bugs and blossoms.
Along with Seaman, the show has a real find in Jason Briggs, a Tennessee-based ceramicist who's possibly the best artist in the exhibition. Like Seaman, Briggs is essentially a mixed-media surrealist who also finds great beauty in biomorphic forms. His starting point for the handful of pieces here is typically a vaguely phallic object that he then subjects to various permutations, apparently folding and curving the clay to create highly suggestive crevices and recesses. While he incorporates stainless steel and rubber into some of the works (he has an excellent feel for surface textures), he also dots them with pores into which he has inserted tiny hairs — I don't even want to know where they come from — so that the overall effect is like something that has escaped from some futuristic horror film; it's easy to imagine one of his objects making a cameo appearance in a David Cronenberg movie.
Briggs' Rest and (top) Seaman's Teapot: Unsettlingly sensuous and wonderfully deranged
"southXeast: Contemporary Southeastern Art"
On display through March 5 (Ritter Art Gallery) and April 5 (Schmidt Center Gallery) at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Call 561-297-2966.
The FAU galleries hosted their first "southXeast: Contemporary Southeastern Art" exhibition in 2005 with the aim of providing exposure for regional artists not part of the New York and Miami axis. This second incarnation includes 14 artists — four each from Florida and Georgia, two from Tennessee, and one each from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina — culled from a field of more than 300 competitors. Although overall the show isn't as strong as its predecessor, individual artists as distinctive as Seaman and Briggs make such exhibitions a venture well worth continuing.