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BEAUTY IS IN THE MYSTERY

The work of the group Brava, on display at Salt Creek Artworks, challenges the viewer to find its meaning.

Bravo!

That's the accepted shout-out after an outstanding orchestral or operatic performance.

FYI, if the soloist is female, you're supposed to shout "Brava!"

And "brava" is what I would say to the six artists who meet and exchange ideas on a regular basis and who, you would correctly assume, are female. They call their little group Brava, by the way. Their get-togethers must be lively; their work as artists certainly is, spanning media and sensibilities.

An exhibition of their work, curated by Lance Rodgers, is at Salt Creek Artworks, 1600 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg, through May 21.

Especially appealing were Candace Knapp's quirky sculptures. They always work better as an installation, and she has created a gardenlike arrangement of whimsical plants, animals and the suggestion of a human presence, too, with disembodied hands interacting with flora and fauna.

The standout is Carolina Cleere's mixed media works. They're exquisitely crafted and difficult to "read" technically. Are they paintings, photographs, both? It's hard to tell because everything is so seamlessly integrated. For Child's Play, shown here, she used more than 500 individual photographs she shot - she has also been an award-winning photojournalist - then spent several years composing them into the completed work.

Her subjects create their own kind of mystery. These are mostly children in ambivalent settings and poses. (Her starting point is often dolls; she collects vintage ones.) They convey knowingness and naivete at the same time with eyes that could have nothing behind them. Or way too much.

The "Women's Work" exhibition also has mixed media constructions by Margaret Conte, paintings and ceramics by Lyla Haggard, pen and ink drawings by Phyllis McEwen and mixed media sculptures and a conceptual installation by Kim Radatz.

Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Free. saltcreekartworks.com.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lennie@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8293.

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