Trying to decipher a painting -- or even knowing where to look -- can be like trying to find one's car keys at 4 a.m. in a drunken stupor. But that's not the case in Pamela Larkin Caruso's exhibit "Colors of the Heart, Mind, and Soul." Her minimalist oil paintings and idiosyncratic portraits prove that small differences in color, form, and composition can express vastly different emotions. Caruso's emphasis on subtlety is best-exemplified in her "Hearts" series, in which each piece portrays similar subject matter from a close perspective, accentuating minute variations through the smallest details. "I approach the subject without any preconceived ideas or desired results," Caruso writes of her "Hearts" series. The difference between the feelings exuded in her paintings Slight (pictured) and Intuition lies mostly in Caruso's color choices. The light-brownish tint of the former, as if drained of its natural crimson red, offers far less emotion than the latter's mix of blue, white, and mauve. The figures in Caruso's portrait series, however, are as individual as a fingerprint, from the plaintive, middle-aged woman in Anchors Away to the tense, teeth-chattering subject in Chocolate Truffles to the seemingly content, pot-bellied man in Angel on Illinois Street. Caruso's "Fruits, Veggies, and Botanicals" series is just that. Needless to say, the fruits and veggies paintings -- done in a totally conventional manner -- are the least interesting pieces in the exhibit. Caruso is far more expressive painting subjects that allow her more freedom to delve into the abstract -- and aren't so mundane. (Through November 19 at the Palm Beach Community College Eissey Campus, 3160 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-207-5015.) -- Jason Budjinski
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, 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, and the Wedding Dress. Ah, the Dress. It's big, all right, 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, 954-525-5500.)
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