'Meditations on Collage," a group show at Bridgette Mayer Gallery, provides a fluid framework for six regional artists who arrived at their present approach to cut-and-paste.

What all have in common is that they interpret the world around them, often abstractly.

Tom Judd, the elder statesman, creates the dominant impression in this show, capturing the intimate communion with nature and close affinity with trees, plants, and birds. There's some indication Judd takes refuge in the art world, if not in the academy.

Also striking are Joe McAleer's meticulous optical abstractions. McAleer shows that he has a flair for the resonance of repeated images, the mood of tranquillity and intimacy facing off against a certain tension here.

Ivan Stojakovic - a quirky artist, you might say, who works the difficult passageway between nature and artifice - provides a visual experience of great delight with his abstractions thickly painted on sleek stainless steel.

The show's personality emerges as well in the individual case of architect David Slovic, notably represented by images of light seen as "endless progressions" he has assembled. It's also seen in works by Peter Pezzimenti, whether casually crafted in colorful abstractions or the tenebrism of the show's darkest painting.

Ani Rosskam is no slick shopping-center Bonnard or "fauve" painter. But she does love color. Her art relies on the evocative potential of landscape; a few people seen, imagined, or remembered; and our ability to recognize and respond to them.

Visitors hoping for a substantial, finely tuned study of collage in Philadelphia will have longer to wait. But this show makes a strong start.

Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut. To Wed. Tue-Sat 10-6. Free. 215-413-8893.

Rural landscapes

Two distinct approaches are featured in painter George Thompson's 61-item show "Lifescapes," at Radclyffe Gallery.

His small rural landscapes, painted near his Plumsteadville home, are structured through color. By contrast, his figures and portraits borrow from modernism's preoccupation with generalized form in his drawings and paintings done from the model.

While those figure subjects have a certain richness of line, Thompson doesn't idealize or monumentalize. And he doesn't "do" history.

Often, his paintings of individual people demonstrate a recurring conflict between intuitive gutsiness and self-conscious finesse. Several portraits are theatrical. Others appear in a mocking way, wearing jokey masks.

Is such art intentionally made to be just funny? Or false? If so, we are only being entertained here.

Thompson's work deals with the area of experience in which the present slips into the past. Yet his avoidance of marketplace realism gives Thompson's figure subjects a quizzical claim to seriousness.

His dedication to painting small landscapes is what really counts here. He steers clear of any difficulties in them by being responsive to the particularities of place.

In such work, he's also nearest to picking up on elegance, as he is also in his oil Juliana in Red Kimono (on the cover of December's Artist's Magazine).

Radclyffe Gallery, 6236 Lower York Rd (Rt 202) near New Hope. To Jan. 9. Tue-Sat 10-6. Free. 215-862-2153.

Simpson solo

Josh Simpson, New England glassblower, has always liked geology and certain kinds of rocks that are very ordinary looking until you break them open and find an amazing interior of colorful crystals formed over aeons.

Able to approximate these in his own glassblowing, Simpson calls them Portals, and is exhibiting several in his "Aurora Borealis" solo at Barnstone Gallery.

Portals, he says, are like living in a submarine or spaceship and having only one tiny window through which to look out on the vast ocean or galaxy around you.

Wouldn't you know, Simpson's wife is a NASA astronaut. Connected to both gritty earth and airy spirit, his work brings this material to life with an enchanting virtuosity.

Barnstone Gallery, 388 W Pothouse Rd, Phoenixville. To Dec. 31. Tue-Thu noon-6, Fri-Sat 10-4. Free. 610-917-0140. Closed 12/24-1/1.