The painting depicts a horse that is mounted by a cowboy and is standing nose-to-nose with a cow. A neon arrow is just beneath the horse's hooves, and there's another neon arrow above, pointed toward the cow's haunches. An enormous top-hatted bird (crow? raven?) half-hides behind a building that is adorned with signs promising both Chinese food and — what is perhaps the oddest feature of this painting — a pay phone.

The painting is titled I like my cowboys simple, my cows complicated, and my fried rice fast! The work is unsigned, just like the rest of the 87 paintings and photographs featured in Artists' Link's "Incognito" exhibit at the Memphis Botanic Garden. The artists will be revealed during the "Incognito" Art Gala and Silent Auction this Friday.

The idea, says Artists' Link president Phyllis Boger, is for attendees to "bid on what they like, not the name of the artists." Among the 83 artists are N.J. Woods, Saj Crone, and Jeanne Seagle. Each was given a 10-by-10 canvas and the suggestion that they do something with a horticultural theme to honor the setting. The results, says Boger, "runs the gamut — horticultural scenes, abstracts. Paintings that are funky, weird."

Boger says that some artists altered their signature styles for further obsfuscation. Others donated works that will be recognizable right off the bat. Bidding starts at $40, and between 6:30 and 7 p.m., "flash bids" will be accepted, when $250 will buy the work outright.

The artists attending Friday's event have been encouraged to come, yes, incognito. Trench coats, sunglasses, and hats will do, says Boger, though she hopes they get creative. "We're artists, for crying out loud!"

"Incognito" Art Gala and Silent Auction, Friday, January 20th, 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for garden members, $35 nonmembers. Reservations: 636-4131.

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