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In Philly galleries: Terri Saulin at Tiger Strikes Asteroid and 2 more must-see shows

Terri Saulin's gallery exhibit at Tiger Strikes Asteroid is one highlight on the December calendar in Philly. Two others: Vaughn Stubbs at Philadelphia Art Alliance and the three-artist show "Cross-Sectional Views" at Pentimenti Gallery.

Detail from Terri Saulin’s porcelain sculpture, “All is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone” (2016), at Tiger Strikes Asteroid.
Detail from Terri Saulin’s porcelain sculpture, “All is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone” (2016), at Tiger Strikes Asteroid.Read moreJAIME ALVAREZ

Terri Saulin's current show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid is easily the most polished presentation to date of her delicate porcelain sculptures. That's in large part due to her collaboration with sculptor Gregory Emore of the Geronimo Co., who designed the steel, brass, glass, and wood supports and pedestals that display her works in this exhibit, called "Terri Saulin: that which requires no battle."

The sculptures themselves have a more seamless quality, too, even considering their consciously ad hoc formations.

Saulin's sculptures look more solid against this installation's dark, substantial supports than they did when shown on white pedestals in TSA's former space, which had an abundance of natural light. In the gallery's new windowless space at the Crane Building, which is lighted from the ceiling and has a crepuscular atmosphere, Saulin's sculptures are encountered slowly and individually, like fragments of a dream.

They also look as though  Saulin has imbued them with a life of their own. A wall plaque, In the midst of chaos there is also opportunity, and a vessel form, Empress Consort Jingu, are displayed together on a shelf and seem to be growing together. Dam, a squat vessel form with a celadon glaze dripping down its front, has an assortment of ladderlike appendages. A look of scaffolding — and of human-built things being held together precariously — is still very evident in Saulin's sculptures.

The seeming outlier in this show, Remembering Quintina Bianca Melaragni, is a Plexiglas platform suspended from the ceiling on which Saulin has arranged 20 meticulously traced copies of her late neighbor's careful school notes from the 1930s. They face downward, toward viewers.

Transcribed on translucent vellum and presented in layers of two or more, the notes are nearly impossible to read in their entirety — the visual equivalent of memories. It's a poetic tribute to a woman who inspired Saulin's art — and not just by her note-taking. "When I first moved into my old South Philadelphia house, everything that was falling down was buttressed with scrap wood, tied up with nude-colored nylon stockings, and slathered with concrete," Saulin recalls in her artist's statement. "My neighbors Quintana and Mario were alchemists who could build or fix anything with a piece of string."

Through Jan. 6 at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, 1400 N. American St., noon to 4 p.m. Fridays, 2 to 6 p.m. Saturdays, and by appointment. Information: 484-469-0319 or

Saluting a joyful, generous spirit

Vaughn Stubbs, an African American artist and Vietnam War vet, was 69 when he died of cancer in 2016 and was well known in Philadelphia art circles — both for his joyful art and for his generous spirit. In the war, he served as a field artist, being a conscientious objector. He also taught art to blind students at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for decades.

A 1972 graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Stubbs fashioned jewelry from found objects and made paintings, quilts, and bead-covered urns sprouting plastic toys. His art is now the subject of a survey at the Philadelphia Art Alliance organized by curator Julie Courtney, a longtime friend.

Stubbs was the opposite of a minimalist. If he could add one more toy or rope of beads to an urn, he apparently would. (He was a little more restrained with his renditions of Fabergé eggs, which he called his "Fab Eggs.") One of his quilts, a "collage" of sewn-together academic hoods, is so sprawling it had to be displayed on an enormous table.

He was beyond prolific: Several glass-covered vitrines on both exhibition floors are filled with his brooches, pins, and bracelets. Messenger bags? He produced those, too — out of found fabric, with photographic images of celebrities sewn on.

I'll assume he was too restless to commit himself solely to painting, but some of the paintings here are impressive — especially his portrait of Paul Robeson, on loan from the collection of the Paul Robeson House & Museum, and his riffs on Van Gogh paintings.

Courtney has wisely interspersed photographic portraits of Stubbs in her show, emphasizing his indelible mark on the city's art community. The noteworthy local photographers who shot them include Thomas Brummett, Paul Cava, and Nancy Hellebrand Blood.

Through Jan. 7 at Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St., noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Suggested donation: $5 adults; $3 students and seniors. Information: 215-545-4302 or

You’re in luck: 11 extra days for three-artist show

In case you thought you missed Pentimenti Gallery's three-person show "Cross-Sectional Views," there's still time. Originally scheduled to close Dec. 10, it's been extended. And you shouldn't miss it.

Here are Michelle Benoit's cleverly constructed wall sculptures, composed of layers of reclaimed bulletproof plastic and wood. Thin washes of paint inside them create a colorful inner glow.

Here, too, are Vicki Sher's whimsical abstract oil pastel and pencil drawings on vellum and Erik Spehn's large paintings of undulating stripes, not quite in the manner of Bridget Riley, but close enough.

Through Dec. 21 at Pentimenti Gallery, 145 N. Second St., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Information: 215-625-9990 or www.