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The Unkindest Cuts

People assault the system in various ways: Student revolutionaries throw rocks, toddlers pitch fits, and punk rockers diss the queen.

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Collage artists get out the scissors and glue.

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In the right hands, collage can be a humorous, inventive form. By culling bits and pieces of popular culture from books and magazines and then assembling them into new arrangements, collage comments on the media that seem so beyond our control.

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In the wrong hands, collage feels like cheating: a way of creating juxtapositions with the hopes that meaning will magically appear. Too often that's the case in some of the scrambled and imprecise imagery in The Cut N Paste Show, whose four artists illustrate both the positives and the negatives of the form.

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Collage, because it so often uses the material of the culture, can fall into its own traps. Take, for instance, Jason Vise's equation of greed with femininity in "American Excess," with its sexy lady framed by American Express gold cards. Sure, images of sleek and hungry fashion models are easy to come by, but in the age of Enron and Tyco, are beautiful women really the best representations of avarice? Vise does better with a yee-haw caricature of George Bush.

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Like Vise, Julie Nellenback and John Otte run hot and cold. Sometimes they're good, but sometimes, the artists take the easy way out.

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The star of the show is Kristi Hyde. Our Lady of Wicked Humor and Nimble Cutting Fingers, Hyde engages in the satisfying business of purging her rage and frustration with love in jagged, funny works. Her precisely detailed "Lub Hurts," for instance, is a three-dimensional collage combining super-cuteness, sex and angst in a perverse woodlands scene of two deer impaled on cupid's arrow. In the saucy Dr. Strangelove "I Want to Explode," a topless lady with a missile head places one elegant white-gloved finger on the doomsday button, setting off a mushroom cloud behind her.

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The Futurist art movement found beauty in chaos and violence, and if Hyde doesn't exactly celebrate the end of time, she sure vents with the best of them.



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