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Check out the local art scene

One of the most effective ways to keep a finger on the pulse of the local art scene is to stroll through the members show at the Arts Center.

Art lovers who want to keep up with bay area art can do no better than to check out the Arts Center's offerings periodically. While the expanded Dunedin Fine Art Center, the new Gulf Coast Museum of Art (opening Sept. 18) and the Tampa Museum of Art do dedicate space or shows to area artists, none can match the Arts Center's devotion to our own developing scene.

The annual members show brings together established artists exhibiting recent works alongside newcomers, airing their best accomplishments and hoping for encouraging feedback. Often neither has the inventory for a larger showing of their work. Each member is entitled to exhibit one piece. Because of a surge in interest since the center's dramatic renovation completed this spring, 50 percent more members entered work this year than in the past.

Seasoned artist Jean Grastorf has the ability to inject sunlight by letting the paper "shine" through her subject matter. Across the room, Kristie Helinger's The Ride Home, a photo of light on a bicycle rider, offers intriguing comparison.

Other established artists include Ruth Philipon, John Stanley, Margaret Rigg and Michael Chomick.

Less familiar is the jewelry by Tom and Kay Benham, which matches up favorably in the same case as a work by veteran Tom McCarthy.

Marjorie Dean Andruk of St. Pete Beach is a well-known teacher whose proficient students are exhibiting in not one, but two shows: at the Arts Center and at Ambiance Galleries (1535 Ninth St. N, St. Petersburg, through Aug. 14).

Her abstract paintings have been displayed throughout the eastern United States and abroad. Through their titles and through color and form, she suggests a variety of subjects. Finding a typical work among her pieces is not easy; though they at first appear similar, each is different.

All That Jazz reveals swirly, dancing shapes filled with movement. In the lower right a "dancer" seems to be tipping his hat. The work has a more distinct linearity than the other abstracts.

In another work, faces seem immersed in a pool. Are the titles referencing distant places that the artist has visited (the Grand Canyon, Hong Kong)? Was Copland's Appalachian Spring painted while she listened to the music? The viewer can only guess, and enjoy.

Dan Meisner of St. Petersburg has been searching for unique expression, despite the limits of his medium, raku, a porous earthenware. Many artists working in raku create pots that look similar to his. Finding his own substantive direction has posed a challenge he seems to have met in his current body of work, which combines mixed media with clay.

In a dozen new works he infuses mystery as if the objects come from a long-forgotten culture. He adds unusual elements such as twigs and stones but stays true to raku's standard surfaces: rough, crackled and metallic. In the Beginning is the Future is an unexpected combination of dark, earthy clay and smooth, clear glass. The massive vessel is topped by a tiny rod and globe, a rare and precious object poised beneath a roof of protection and reverence. The glass is both a crystal ball and a metaphor for what is to be.

Meisner teaches at the Arts Center, the Academy Prep Center for Education and the Youth Arts Corps in Pinellas County.

Compare Joe Walles' photos for the St. Petersburg Times, where he works as night picture editor, with his fine art photography, and you gain an understanding of the difference between documentary photography as news and documentary photography as art form. The news photo conveys instant information. The photographer observes the principles of art, such as composition and contrast, for purposes of clarity and interest.

The fine art photo is rarely comprehended in an instant; sometimes we have to fathom the shadows to discern the image or think about the message that caused the photographer to select a particular photo above the hundreds that he shoots. Fallen Angel is a fragment of time that must have seemed an eternity to a young ballerina. It is a charming window into a familiar experience.

New Works: Marjorie Dean and Dan Meisner (through Sept. 3)

The Photography of Joseph Walles (through Aug. 27)

Annual Members Show (through Aug. 27)

Shared Visions: Students of Andruk and Meisner (through Aug. 27)

Catch the Wave: Work Created by Summer Art Students (through Aug. 12)

+ Where: The Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

+ When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday

+ Free

+ Call: (727) 822-7872

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