Bear and Bird: Affordable Art Prints for a Happy Home

Let's say you've made the big decision to move beyond black-light posters to express your inner je ne sais quoi. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with black-light posters. It's just that they're a little, uh, limited in their aesthetic possibilities.

So take 'em down, along with those full-page ads carefully cut from the pages of glossy magazines and any other ephemera you've tacked to the walls. Maybe you've picked up a few of those knockoff movie posters distributed en masse at sneak previews. And guys, put away the Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds; at least hide them under the mattress or in your sock drawer.

To help you in your quest for higher art, Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery, the cool little space tucked upstairs at Tate's massive comics and collectibles store in western Lauderhill, is holding a special exhibition and sale. "Everyone can afford unique artwork to decorate their walls... even you!" So proclaim the little cards produced to promote the show.

I counted 60 or so original works for sale at "Screened In: Serigraph Art Prints for a Happy Home," not including the stuff in the bins where the gallery usually keeps its mass-produced prints and posters. And by original, I don't necessarily mean one-of-a-kind, although a surprising number of the works included in the show are indeed unique pieces. By original, I mean idiosyncratic, or perhaps even eccentric, because Bear and Bird has always specialized in artists with their own distinctive visions. Much like the art at most of the shows here, the subject matter is all over the place: cute butterflies and birds and other animals, designs that look destined for tattoos rather than walls, anime-inspired imagery, cartoon figures that seem to have escaped from the 1950s, a skeleton or two. You get the idea.

Because the emphasis is on affordability, the exhibition focuses on works that have been produced in limited editions, ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred pieces per edition. What that means, in practical terms, is the numbers alongside the artist's signature indicate the scope of the edition; 25/200, for instance, shows that the work in question was the 25th print struck in an edition that will total 200. The smaller the size of the edition means there are fewer versions of that particular piece floating around.

But if you're just starting out, you're probably more interested in another number associated with a given piece — the price. And because the works on display are mostly pulled from larger editions, the prices are surprisingly reasonable. That 25/200 print might set you back, say, 40 or 50 bucks instead of $400 or $500.

Another factor to figure in is framing. The majority of the prints on display aren't framed; they're simply held in place by tiny pieces of metal called bulldog clips, which are also conveniently on sale for a dollar a pair. Pick out a print, and someone will pull a copy for you. A little currency later and you're on your way. If the work of your choice already happens to be framed, you won't be able to claim it until after the exhibition has run its course.

A final word about framing: It can add considerably to the total cost of a print. If you're counting your pennies, ask if the work you've got your heart set on is available unframed. That way you'll save a little up front, and if and when you decide to frame your print, you'll be able to select the matte and frame yourself.

One last caveat: If you walk out of Bear and Bird with an original print in hand, there's a very good chance you'll be back for more. Art can be highly addictive.

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Michael Mills