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In the Eye of Beholder : The Burbank exhibit features the three-dimensional works of 13 artists and includes ceramics, tapestry and jewelry. It crosses the line 'between art and craft.'

July 15, 1994|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

BURBANK — When is a ceramic pot just a pot and when is it art? That question has been the subject of intense debate among artists, scholars and collectors throughout the second half of the 20th Century. The answer is not always clear. Often it lies in the eye of the beholder.

At the Creative Arts Center, one can behold a range of ceramic works as well as fiber art pieces. One can join in the discussion of what constitutes art, or just enjoy the compelling shapes, textures and colors of the objects in the show, "Art From the Third Dimension."

The more than 70 pieces--of fiber sculpture, wearable art, tapestry, jewelry, paper works and ceramics--represent the work of 13 artists from the Third Dimension Portfolio Group, an arts group founded in 1980 and affiliated with the Palos Verdes Art Center.

"This is a different show than what we've been traditionally showing," said Carol Finkle, who runs the Creative Arts Center gallery. "We were impressed with (the group's) work, the variety of media and their use of media. It's crossed the line between art and craft, and that's a tough line to cross. You wouldn't put a plant in their pots."

Finkle also was intrigued by the diverse approaches of the six ceramists.

"Each in their own way is so lovely, but so totally different," she said.

Max Fuller uses the ceramic medium to make breastplates, shields and helmets that look like they are made from metal. Although they recall the days of merry old England in battle, there is a sly, humorous quality about them that suggests the folly of warfare.

The substantial abstract ceramic works by Leonard Rubenstein present his notions of "Habitat," "Fertility" and "Ego." One can approach the 40-inch-tall "Ego" from various angles. From one view, it looks like a penguin. "You get different feelings from it, depending on where you come from," Finkle said. She sees Fuller and Rubenstein's work as particularly masculine.

Jan Napolitan's black stoneware and porcelain plate, "Eddy," contains sensuous curves that draw the viewer toward it. "Each of my ceramic pieces takes on a 'mood' which reflects my own state of mind at the time it is being created. . . . I love chasing the graceful form and the clean line as well as the challenge of decorating, glazing, firing," Napolitan writes.

Sherry Harris gathers up plant fibers such as bark and kelp in Southern California and in Mexico to create basket-like pieces that evoke the seashores and other natural environments where she finds the objects. "Primitive Vessel" conveys the abundance of nature in its cornucopia-like form. The vase-like "Windsong" offers a higher, more refined natural vision. "Collection Pod II," with its gourds, holds some of the appealing bounty of Earth.

Harris' work demonstrates "the difference between weaving a basket and having a piece of art," Finkle said. "They're so beautifully done."

Judy Barnes Baker's wearable pieces entice the viewer with their rich colors and flowing shapes. The butterfly-like "Morphidae" and the three other pieces on view are made of silk, dye and textile paint.

Susan McGehee has taken to weaving with wire, "to use late 20th-Century materials, primarily from the electronics industry, to create pieces that have a look and feel of previous centuries," she writes. Works such as the aluminum wire and copper "Undulating Twill" sweep across the wall, catching the sun's rays.

"At different times, with different sun, it really looks different," Finkle said.

There is a digital quality to Judy Schuster's finely made, introspective portrait tapestries. Finkle said Schuster uses a computer to compose images before she begins her tapestries. The faces and hands of the wool on linen "A Shadow of My Former Self" exude the complexity and the energy of life. The tapestry itself seems almost to move, to dance.

Other artists in the show are: Lyn-Rae Ashley, Diana Brenna, Sherry Jacobson, Lois James, Vi Mayfield and Portia Spurney.

Where and When

What: "Art From the Third Dimension."

Location: Creative Arts Center, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 23 only. Ends July 29.

Call: (818) 953-8763.

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