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Dancing Around an Idea 

The Spruill Gallery is a funky oasis in a slice of Dunwoody that is slowly strangling from man-made lakes, Vegas-scale theme restaurants and super-sized retail.

In its desire to offer a friendly, accessible form of art as an antidote to God Retail, the gallery often errs too far on the artsy-craftsy side and a warm-and-fuzzy inclusiveness. Many of the artists offer thoughtful, provocative work, but just as many take a slapdash approach.

Refusing to Dance Backwards: A Celebration of Female Artists at Work in Atlanta features work in every medium, some of it related to a broad idea of "women," and some just made by them.

Viewers have to sift through the exhibition to find the individual pieces that make Refusing to Dance Backwards palatable. Dana Kemp's combination of text and snapshots of boyfriends past takes some rather ordinary materials and fashions them into a highly successful series illustrating how often women allow the men in their lives to determine their self-worth.

Photographer Nancy W. Voshall has a number of pieces scattered throughout the gallery, but her portraits of older women are knockouts. "Susie of the Taos Pueblo" is the kind of elderly woman whose personal style of turquoise earrings and funky headscarf assert an idiosyncratic identity that defies expected notions of passive female old age.

Photographer Rose M. Barron's snarky revisionist views of art history, in which the women are all clothed and the men naked, is the kind of spirited, funny work you'd expect to see more of in a show about contemporary women artists.

There is an inherent lesson in Refusing to Dance Backwards. Don't go expecting to find some insight into a gender far too diverse to pigeonhole or a statement about womanhood circa 2005. Instead, go for the individual works that prove women are best understood on a case-by-case basis rather than as some homogenous lump.

Felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.comRefusing to Dance Backwards: A Celebration of Female Artists at Work in Atlanta continues through March 5 at the Spruill Gallery, 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 770-394-4019. www.spruillarts.org.

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