Discarded naval maps of the Bahamas, West Indies, Australia and other far-flung locales serve as the substrate for this new series of mixed-media works by local artist Kit Keith. On the maps' surface, the faces of black-haired women with lipsticked mouths appear in an odd blend of period vogue and frayed distress. Magazine images of birds or orange blossoms or Campbell's soup cans are cut with pinking shears into triangular shapes that crown the various portrait heads, asserting a kind of heroism to otherwise anonymous characters. A pink ribbon frames one piece, while a large, cutout "F-" is affixed to another. The formal expertise grafted from sign painting to mid-century illustration to a well-mastered brand of aesthetics entirely Keith's own does little to hold at bay a raw sense of the sincerely autobiographical in these works. No matter how many guises the portraits borrow and wear, a vulnerably complex persona is clearly and consistently betrayed. Kit Keith: New and Used remains on display through Saturday, October 16, at William Shearburn Gallery (4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 or www.shearburngallery.com). The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Sept. 24. Continues through Oct. 16, 2010