Art Beat: Passages

In the one-woman show "Passages," now at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale's Mark K. Wheeler Gallery, Art Institute instructor Jody Thompson explores her fascination with a couple of key items: female mannequins, especially, with Arabic numerals running a close second. In archival digital prints and mixed-media works, we encounter the same blank mannequin face and variations of the same numbers. The mannequin stares out at us in image after image, sometimes with its breasts exposed. A huge number 8 lurks behind a chainlink fence. And so on. There are nearly four dozen works here, and although a couple of the pieces are coolly mysterious, after a while, the lack of variety may begin to wear you down — it's as if Thompson has concocted a secret language that she declines to help us decode. The artist is on much more solid ground with her collages, a handful of which are scattered throughout the exhibition. She has an intuitive grasp of what makes a striking collage, as in the unexpected juxtaposition of stamps and a fragment of jawbone that greets us in Don't Bite the Hand. She even pulls off incorporating a view of her beloved mannequin's face in Nest, which buries the shot among pages from books and other images. And in a couple of abstract photographs, Thompson appears to be so mesmerized by the hot-orange hues she has stumbled upon that they become irresistible to us as well.
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Michael Mills