A well-packaged show, with two artists whose commonality seems to be an interest in the mass-market hipster aesthetic of the feather accessory, and certainly neither artists’ work would be out of place on the walls of an Urban Outfitters (and is certainly right at home in Wicker Park). However, the show offers a more nuanced experience than a passing glance would suggest. Karena Karras’ paintings and assemblage are anchored firmly in the realm of fairy tale and pagan mythology, their most consistent trope the image of a bird-woman hybrid engaged in mysterious work in a fantasia environment. Birds are the overt connection between her work and that of Doug Stapleton, who uses bird imagery obsessively as decorative repeated objects and accessories for his gold-foiled icons and often overly precious collages, where it’s hard to tell whether his Madonnas and the like are attempts at comments about religious imagery or just camp. However, Stapleton’s three portraits of real women, each of which incorporates a repeated image of a different bird in semi-mosaic fashion, is much more successful, playful and compelling. The work of each individual artist ultimately does feel overly studied, if aesthetically pleasing, like a well-layered and accessorized outfit, but that being said, the dialogue between the two artists vis-à-vis representation of animals and construction of human identity through depiction of and in contrast to animals is worth considering, perhaps far more than the pieces themselves. (Monica Westin)
Through May 1 at Eyeporium, 1543 N. Milwaukee.