The artist as a seer. That's what a magical realist painter is for me. He or she isn't just a mere strategist or someone who caters to an appetite for whatever is stimulating.
Featured in an important "Magical Realism" show at Abington that was scheduled to open Friday are six such seers whose paintings mix fantasy and reality but are otherwise dissimilar. Work by four of them was viewed.
Susana Viola Jacobson's three large paintings are knockouts, and Steven Kenny's captivating painting The Flame was the inspiration for this show.
Jacobson, a Utah native with a master's degree from Stanford University, has taught at Yale and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Trying to take back the female figure as a significant character from historical allegory, she gets impressive results here.
Pulled into each painting by the immediacy of feeling and held by its sure structural framework, the viewer is engaged viscerally and cerebrally.
Deidre Murphy, also of Philadelphia, studied with Jacobson at Penn. Murphy turns her bemused attention to nature, treating bird subjects with gentle deference. Her paintings' attractiveness is enhanced by small scale and bright hues.
There's a good deal of pungent energy and symbolic richness in Kenny's people paintings addressing the realm of the invisible, this Virginia artist intermingling the practical and the mystical.
Marilyn Holsing of Merion, in darkling paintings on paper as mysterious as their making, is concerned with anguished, solitary children and tone, mood, and the sobriety of her colors. In these, the images' sense of transience is pronounced.
This is a venturesome, intriguing season-opener.
Abington Art Center, 515 Meetinghouse Rd, Jenkintown. To Nov. 24. Tue, Wed, Fri 10-5, Thu 10-7, Sat 10-3. Free. 215-887-4882.
Bucks County Community College. Outstanding in the college's six-person, invited-only Bucks County artists' biennial show are R. Michael Wommack's dream-image pastels of cookie-cutter housing recalling his Levittown childhood.
This versatile Langhorne artist, exhibiting here with his wife, Nina, a botanist and pharmaceutical scientist, makes such housing-tract overviews unsettling and beyond the bounds of normal reality.
While insightful, Nina's cunning ceramic-tile and mosaic panels of insects and plants show her focus on practical arts and crafts.
Eric Fausnacht of Kintnersville paints profile portraits of roosters on a rococo-patterned background that he photographed at state fairs. Done tongue-in-cheek, the paintings make us uneasy, for he's sabotaging conventional appearances of domestic fowl to go "unconventional."
Strong colors predominate, and there is dramatic movement into space in abstract paintings by Joyce Sanderson of New Hope - a nice try at combining assertive order and powerful feeling.
In painted collages by Stacie Speer Scott of Holicong, intuitive gestural brushstrokes collide with roughly squarish shapes amid milky hues to offer glimpses of a figure in decorative images.
Sculptor Mark Pettegrow of Point Pleasant is capable of presenting bronze handsomely in its natural tones in an abstract wall piece. His two free-standing works playfully reveal and subvert the bronze.
Bucks County Community College's Hicks Art Center Gallery, 275 Swamp Rd, Newtown. Mon-Fri 9-4 to Sept. 24; Sept. 25 to Oct . 20, Mon & Fri 9-4, Tue-Thu 9-8, Sat 9-noon. Free. 215-504-8531.
Main Line Art Center. For its 70th anniversary, the Art Center has added well-known former teachers to its faculty group show, including standouts James Toogood and Emilie Atlee - for the latter, in her 90s, a mini-solo.
Main Line Art Center, 746 Panmure Rd, Haverford (same location, a more user-friendly address). To Sept. 26. Mon-Thu 10-8, Fri-Sun 10-4. Free. 610-525-0272.