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2 craft shows at Wayne center

One has an admirable array; the other sparkles with glass alone.

Images from the exhibit "Mel Leipzig: Life Observed" at Drexel.
Images from the exhibit "Mel Leipzig: Life Observed" at Drexel.Read more

It's a doubleheader craft event at the Wayne Art Center with major-league status.

This twin bill features two distinct exhibits: "CraftForms '09: the 15th International Juried Exhibit of Contemporary Craft" and "Reflections in Glass," a curated regional show. Together, these events offer a sprawling, fascinating, fragmented meditation on crafts in general and glass in particular.

Ninety-nine artists showing 106 items are featured in this "CraftForms" classic. The works were selected by the show's juror, Bruce W. Pepich, executive director of the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin.

Pepich encountered some newer trends here, such as craft artists combining different media in the same piece (clay/glass, knit/stitched fibers). He also calls attention to increasing use of the computer in metalwork as well as increased partnerships between craftspeople and designers.

Although international participants this year number a scant half-dozen, the show's national base seems solid.

Items ranging from wooden furniture and jewelry to decorative and functional pieces are of high quality. A few of these objects were pulled out of a comic-book world.

And while that's understandable, perhaps a real sign of maturity of this formidable show series will evolve: a growing number of artists putting aside work that's jokey for something uplifting.

We need more of that, and there are bright hints of it here.

"Reflections in Glass," meanwhile, offers a particularly interesting viewpoint - that of Arlene Silvers, director of glass events at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.

Silvers chose 33 artists from five states in this region for an exhilarating, 100-item show. It's extravagant and informative: A glass lecture by one of these distinguished exhibitors, Christopher Ries, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 23, the display's last day.

Leipzig at Drexel

There's never a feeling of contrivance in Mel Leipzig's paintings. He happens upon particular moments in particular places and gently enshrines them, while working on location and never from photos.

The exhibit "Mel Leipzig: Life Observed" at Drexel University is dominated by portraiture and by the Trenton painter's rendering of environmental detail with an almost obsessive meticulousness.

Leipzig crowds these 12 large canvases with objects that seem weighted with symbolic intent, yet are brought into play straightforwardly as he attempts to get at his sitters' personalities. (When he was starting a portrait of the admired painter Lois Dodd in her studio, she brought in a stepladder to fix an ugly leak, and Leipzig said, "Leave it." He included the leak and the ladder under it in a portrait rich in nuance and a voiceless intensity.)

The work that perhaps put Leipzig on Drexel's radar was his portrait of architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown; it was loaned to this show by the University of Pennsylvania's Architectural Archives.

Last January, Drexel received the largest philanthropic gift ever recorded at the university, $25 million. It's being used to purchase and expand the nearby former Institute of Scientific Information building that Venturi designed.

All about animals

Six Dumpster Divers, found-object mavens, enliven a 30-artist "Animal Show" at Salon des Amis. Most notable among the pieces are Ann Keech's

Antlered Animal Trophies

and Linda Lou Horn's altered toy horse,

The Great Escape.

Painterly painters making their claim include Joanne Hoffman, Susan Curtin, Bob Bohne, Jeff Kimmel, and collagist June Blumberg. Chanthaphone Rajavong's ECO Armadillo in aluminum and glass shows a boldness and awareness beyond mere trend-following.