31st Annual Faculty Art Exhibition

Let's say you're a South Florida parent casting about for a school of higher education for your artsy-fartsy teen. The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale comes immediately to mind, right? Well, not so fast. A swing through the Art Institute's current "31st Annual Faculty Art Exhibition" might give you pause. For most of its 40-year history, the Art Institute has been inviting faculty members to put forth their best efforts for public consumption, often in media that aren't their professional specialties. A fashion-design teacher, for instance, might weigh in with works in oil or acrylic. In years past, such cross-fertilization has yielded surprising and provocative work. Not so this season. Much of what's on view in the school's little Mark K. Wheeler Gallery is mediocre, and some of it is downright dreary. That's not to say there's nothing of merit among the more than 65 pieces. With Blue Store in the Islands, for instance, interior design instructor Greg Madden displays a fine feel for both watercolor and photorealism, a tricky combination he nevertheless pulls off. And fashion designer Chrisa Tatakis subverts her own genre with the cheeky Future, a trio of torso-like burlap forms suspended from the ceiling and linked by long gauze "sleeves." The stars of the show, however, are two very different mixed-media collagists, illustrator Janet Gold and graphic designer Jody Thompson. Gold contributes a pair of near-monochromatic works from her current book-based series, coolly displayed with startling casualness (screws and paper clips hanging from the wall). Thompson is more formal and studied but no less effective with three pieces that make excellent use of an array of found items. Perhaps the future for aspiring artists is not so grim after all. (On display through December 1 at the Mark K. Wheeler Gallery, Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, 1799 SE 17th St. Cswy., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-463-3000.)

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