A multi-media artist, a sculptor, and a painter at the edge.

In "Philosophy of Beauty," the current exhibition at David Lusk Gallery, Tad Lauritzen Wright reveals strong, if not completely serious, feelings about art, life, and beauty.

In 2nd Chance Series: The Fate of Beauty, he invites viewers to play shuffleboard with a game whose point-zones include "hot as a two dollar pistol," "drop dead gorgeous," and "ugly as sin," the kinds of slurs and adulations that start barroom brawls and mark intense infatuations.

In a body of work that contains no sacred cows, no designations between high and low art, no hierarchies of any kind, Lauritzen Wright turns beauty inside out and upside down. Doodles and cartoon characters stand alongside advertising slogans, masterworks, and redheads. In the large grid painting Redhead Discount, redheads include jackrabbits with fuchsia ears, bright-red sunburned faces, and Hershey-brown hound dogs.

Lauritzen Wright's cosmetically imperfect figures are sassy and alert. A Minute of My Time is composed of 1,440 self-portraits, one for every minute in a day. The artist records almost every expression, body posture, and bad-hair day known to humankind. In Beautiful Headrests, 1 and 2, tall, lean, squat, round, and oval bodies tumble and play on pillowcases embroidered with Kama Sutra free-for-alls.

Mona Lisa's umber hair and robe have been replaced with a mosaic of cartoon figures, word games, and handwritten lists in the multi-media collage 2nd Chance Series: Mona Lisa. In Lauritzen Wright's version of the masterwork, there's a lot going on inside Leonardo's laid-back, enigmatic icon of beauty. There are things to do, places she wants to go, people she cares about, favorite movies, and favorite recipes.

On scraps of paper, on pillowcases, in colorful grid paintings, and in the face of the artist, we piece together Lauritzen Wright's philosophy of beauty. His sassy, sexy, all-systems-go philosophy is as hot as a two-dollar pistol. It's as hot as minute-to-minute awareness of one's being.

At David Lusk Gallery through October 28th

Leandra Urrutia's wildly imaginative figurative works in the exhibition "Ceramic Sculpture" at St. Mary's Buckman Performing & Fine Arts Center record pleasure at the edge of pain, life at the edge of death, and beauty that is all the more desired because it is temporal and uncertain.

Bulbous white orbs in axis x simultaneously suggest voluptuousness, cancer, and pregnancy, and in variable b, the shins and feet of babies (some with missing toes) hang like trophies from what could be umbilical cords, intestines, tentacles of an octopus, or nylons stuffed with dried brown grasses. In axis y, on the far back wall, Siamese twins or a fetus with an encephalitic head and four legs attempt to push through the membrane of an ovum.

If you can stand being ping-ponged between desire and repulsion, birth and disease, ecstasy and pain, you're in for one of the most daring and original shows of the year.

At the Buckman Performing & Fine Arts Center through October 27th

Jenny Balisle celebrates beauty with meticulously layered paintings that feature surfaces that look wet to the touch, the application of oil paints similar to those used by the 17th-century Dutch masters, color fields and drips of the abstract expressionists, complex surfaces of Art Brut, and semi-abstract landscapes that possess the scale and atmosphere of Chinese scroll paintings.

"Process," Balisle's current body of work at the L Ross Gallery, suggests this artist can simulate almost anything on the surface of a painting, including the complex colors and textures of erosion. Chemical blues and iridescent siennas look like patinas of weathered metal in one of her untitled mid-sized oils on panel. In a triptych of oils (each panel measuring 21-by-45 inches), lemon yellows next to deeply scratched sienna and umber surfaces evoke bright sunlight pouring through chinks in walls encrusted with eons of corrosion.

One of Balisle's most successful works combines the techniques of the modernists with an Eastern aesthetic. While this painting's drips and color fields can be read as pure abstraction, its large size (5-by-7 feet), layers of paint shot through with sienna, yellow, and light green, and smudges that resemble stands of bamboo also evoke the scale, atmosphere, and images of Oriental landscape.

Thick impastos of umber on the left side of the work look like touchstones through which we might access this ethereal landscape. The desire to rub one's hand across the weathered rutted earth and bark is almost irresistible.

At the L Ross Gallery through October 31st

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