A Garden of Ceramic Delights

Dan Barnett's Nightblooms

Nov 30, 2005 at 4:00 am
In general flowers are beautiful. The color; the shape of a bloom; the assembled mass of flowers in a bed, working color in point and counterpoint: This is an accepted vision of loveliness.

But closely examine an individual plant, and you see beauty beyond the mere dazzle of color; the individual shapes and forms make the entire plant reveal a bounty of sensuous geometry. It is the elegant parabola created by the weight of the bloom as it bends the stem over at a ripely turned angle, or the dramatic sweep of bisymmetrical leaves shooting off the main branch in careening arcs, that supply the real beauty.

These are the elements of the natural world that inform the ceramic work of Dan Barnett. His pieces revel in a playful sense of form, echoing the dramatic gestures of the botanical world to create shapes that are both familiar and surprising. The necks of Sisters (pictured), a pair of Barnett's small vessels, break forth and flow backwards like tender shoots straining free of an earthbound bulb; the body of the vessel swells with this nascent life, implying a vitality that is only barely contained in the form. Here is the wonder of the world, contained in the swoops and gyres of Sisters' frozen movement.

Dan Barnett's new work, Nightblooms: Ceramic Vessels and Forged Steel Furniture, is on display at the Xen Gallery (401 North Euclid Avenue; 314-454-9561 or www.xengallery.com). The show opens with a public reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 2; the opening is part of the Euclid-McPherson Gallery Walk, and Nightblooms remains up through Sunday, January 8. — Paul Friswold

Is There Life on Mars?

The setting for Philippe Parreno's film The Boy from Mars is, in fact, not Mars; it is a rural area in Thailand. In a rice paddy, a pavilion built of metal tubing and plastic sheets glows with an inner light as the sun slowly sets. Over the course of the film's silent 11 minutes and 40 seconds, very little seems to happen other than the descent of the sun and the progress of a water buffalo. Then, near the end, Devendra Banhart sings, "Darkness dies, and dawn will come." In this melancholy fissure between high-tech progress and the ancient course of the sun, The Boy from Mars shows how little really changes over the course of human life. The Boy from Mars opens in Gallery 301 of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org) Thursday, December 1, and remains on view indefinitely. — Paul Friswold

Latte Cheer

THU 12/1

The good people at Starbucks already jingle our bells with their gingerbread lattes (four words: like drinking a cookie), so our Chrismukkah joy only multiplied when an angel (disguised as a press release) announced unto us: Holiday Cheer Parties at St. Louis-area Starbucks coffeehouses from 6 to 8 p.m.! We're totally headed Starbucksward (go to www.starbucks.com for locations) for complimentary holiday drinks and pastries, plus fun free activities like designing our own wrapping paper and helping to decorate a gingerbread house. And we're sharing the cheer by bringing unwrapped books and toys for the Holiday Angels Joy Drive; these gifts will be donated throughout the season to a local hospital. — Brooke Foster

Boone There, Done That

Are you tired of the annual battle to outdo the Griswolds' Christmas display? Does the very sight of a six-foot-tall, backlit inflatable snowman inspire delirious rants on harking the herald angels right back to, say, mid-June? Take a deep breath, friend, and then drive west to the Daniel Boone Home & Boonesfield Village in Defiance (1868 Highway F; 636-798-2005 or www.lindenwood.edu/boone) for the annual Candlelight Christmas Tour. From 6 until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (December 2 through 10), you can tour the Boone home and its campus while enjoying traditional nineteenth-century holiday music, period-costumed re-enactors, food, drinks (like wassail) and frontier decorations — including more than a thousand actual candles. Admission ranges from $10 to $15. — Ian Froeb