Be pleasantly surprised by two intriguing Homewood galleries


The Birmingham News  - South      Sunday, August 01, 2004 

James Nelson

ART ALLEY. 109 Broadway, Homewood.

The last couple of months of summer are a good time to take a look around and see if there are places that deal with the fine arts that I have not visited before. It is always a genuine pleasure to find a place like the Art Alley. It has been in its present location for several years, but because the gallery does not have typical art show opening events I have not stopped by before now.
Originally, it was little more than an enclosed alley. Today it has more than doubled its space by expanding into an adjoining building. And what a very intriguing space it is, with raw brick walls nicely contrasting with wood lathe and fragmentary faux plaster, which give the place a comfortably adaptive air well suited to the display of art work.
In a boutique atmosphere, works on display include sculpture and ceramics as well as paintings and drawings. The quality is generally high, and there is a tremendous variety in terms of style and technique. Along with works by local artists there is a wide selection of pieces by regional and national artists.
If Art Alley is not on your gallery-hopping list, add it and visit a very select place that may just surprise you.

DS Art
2805 Crescent Avenue, Homewood

Another interesting site to visit is the working studio gallery called DS Art.

Operated by artists Don Stewart and Sue Ellen Brown, one large space is devoted to display and production, an open and free-wheeling atmosphere of creative effort.

Brown is an accomplished illustrator of books and fairy tales. She designs greeting cards and works on commission, producing charming and whimsical imagery. Brown also shows real promise as a lyrical nonobjective abstractionist. Her large paintings are elegant, sweeping flights of fancy.

Stewart has the skill of an illustrator and the sense of humor of a satirist, producing badge-like images filled with inventive humor. With a ball point pen he creates single subject images of recognizable things that are composed of objects that may have little or nothing to do with the subject. It is a quirky kind of surrealism that becomes a game of cognition reminiscent of the outrageous vegetable and fruit faces by the Baroque artist Giuseppi Arcimboldo. Funny and clever, Stewart's drawings are not what they appear to be but are what he intends them to be. His ``Rock Lobster" looks like a fully opened Swiss army knife. ``Quack" is a duck constructed of a doctor's black bag augmented by a variety of examination tools. He creates a Volkswagen ``Bug" out of insect parts and his ``Sir Realism" is the armor of a knight made up of emblematic bits and pieces. No musical instrument is safe from his wickedly witty pen. Sports equipment provides ample imagery. A catcher's mitt has a miniature ball park stadium palm with peanuts, a popcorn box and hot dog articulating part of the glove that also has fingers made up of a shoe, catchers mask, score card, bats and cap.

Stewart's original drawings are reproduced in limited and inexpensive open editions. All are signed by the artist. James R. Nelson is visual arts critic for the Birmingham News .