FIN AND YANG

Of a more metaphysical bent are the mixed-media drawings of Ken Iwamasa, in which hand-tied lures vie for attention with ponderous ruminations and simple drawings about the essence of fly-fishing. While more traditional water-scene paintings like those of Peter Holbrook and Merrill Mahaffey are not my usual cup of tea, they're not completely out of place in this show, given its general theme. Of more visual interest, however, are Ted Vogel's mixed-media sculpture and, in particular, an installation titled "Dancing," in which the artist has placed an improbable ceramic fish, bespeckled with glitter, against a nostalgic background of kitschy fishing photos and postcards; the inevitable cheesecake that goes with fishing is supplied by an old photo of a very young Marilyn Monroe in a modest, two-piece bathing suit. Any of these postcards and photos would be at home in the show's diorama re-creating a fisherman's private work station, strewn with feathers for lures and decorated with such treasures as a plaque of "The Fisherman's Prayer" and an "I'd Rather Be Fishing" hat. Staged by dedicated members of Canyon Creek Anglers of Phoenix, the scenario could belong to any avid fisherman.

Creeping urban development and vanishing fishing spots in America are potent indications of the decline in the quality of life here, one of the major themes running through "Fish Out Of Water" and an overriding concern of artist Richard Thompson. Thompson's oversize canvases of a cartoony Arcadia in which larger-than-life trout emerge from pristine ponds are sad reminders of a quickly disappearing past. Humor is harnessed by Ann Coe to underscore this point in "Another Western Water Project," in which warty water monsters reminiscent of Godzilla destroy Hoover Dam while seemingly uninterested bumper-to-bumper traffic wends its way through an adjacent mountain pass. More than once in this show, fish are likened to "canaries in the mine," a metaphor that refers to the finny tribe's proclivity for literally going belly up whenever their native habitat becomes polluted. Unfortunately, their silvery bellies are flashing in the sun much too frequently these days, victims of man's devastating insensitivity to his surroundings. While "Fish Out Of Water" may not be the be-all and end-all of art exhibitions, it does gently force us to slow down and think about things we can no longer take for granted, things that, tragically, are disappearing faster than the flow of a good trout stream.

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