Natural Selection

Scott Dupree, organizer of You Can't Fool Mother Nature at B-Complex, is a diplomat when he should probably be a dictator.

An artist himself (whose work appears in the show), Dupree clearly wants to show support and offer a forum for his fellow creatives in this exhibition of more than 60 artists.

In theory, it's a noble endeavor. In practice, it's a gut-busting Shoney's buffet, with the pudding next to the salad next to the stuffed cabbages next to the Salisbury steak. Something filling is traded for something satisfying. There are moments, looking at the sheer accumulation of stuff, that a perverse irony emerges: This is a lot of glue and plastic and acrylic paint expended in homage to nature.

It's disconcerting how many of the artists work with such brazenly human-made, artifice-dominated forms. Though the subject of nature shouldn't require tasteful earth tones, it feels incongruous that so many of the paintings and sculptures feature a patently artificial range of color. The use of toxic blues to represent sky and ocean suggest that when these artists look out to sea, they see toilet bowl cleanser.

There are far too many examples in You Can't Fool Mother Nature of artists who are trying to say something about a lack of human stewardship for the planet's resources or our reckless desire to improve on nature. But many artists pay too little attention to how they convey their message, as if their cause is so urgent they can't be bothered with the details.

Luckily, there are a handful of artists in the exhibition who manage to marry form and content. Meredith Massar's glassworks, in which insect larva and human hearts are crafted into eerily delicate objects, exhibit the kind of technical accomplishment too scarce in the show. And New Jersey-based Jamie Lyn Mitchell's photographs are also exceptional, offering nature as an architecture of the sublime. Like too few of the pieces in You Can't Fool Mother Nature, such works are a welcome shelter in a visual storm.


You Can't Fool Mother Nature runs through April 30 at the B-Complex, 1272 Murphy Ave. Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-992-3913. www.thebcomplex.com. An Earth Day reception will be held Fri., April 22, 6-11 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Sierra Club.??

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