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Female trouble 

The Savannah Gallery may be the most expensive college catalogue ever produced.

The sleek white gallery on Roswell Road is an expertly designed, well-positioned 3-D recruiting tool for the Savannah College of Art and Design, which operates the space. And shows at Savannah can at times feel curated more around its artists' SCAD affiliation than any cohesive theme. That is certainly the case in the current show, La Flora, ambiguously subtitled A Celebration of Signature Style. It features female artists concerned with a mystifying malady or agenda, called "feminine individual identity."

Representing polar opposites of this vaguely female continuum are Chia Chiung Chong and Amy Lynn Freeman. Chong envisions femininity in traditional terms as black-and-white photographs of flowers, while Freeman's slightly rude riot grrrl paintings contort its female subject into compelling, surly poses of neediness, anxiety and defiance.

With a few exceptions, the majority of the show's riches lie upstairs, which houses drool-inducing photography by Sarah McCarn and Liliana Porter. Both McCarn and Porter deal with the strong, intoxicating allure of the ersatz in their photographs.

McCarn, quite literally, crafts dream landscapes of soft-focus tawny marshes, mythic alabaster mountains and glittering, impossibly azure oceans. None of McCarn's landscapes are "real" but are crafted from fabric and food. Creating an imitation of the real by using patently false materials makes McCarn's work a nice fit to her gallery roommate Liliana Porter, a photographer who is also deeply invested in the pleasingly fake.

Porter takes photographs of kitsch: plastic bride and groom cake toppers, a gaucho doll in absurd brush mustache, wind-up monkeys who play the cymbals. Her work comments upon how we use such objects to represent some smoothed-over, idealized state. The artist then turns that notion on its head by subjecting her kitsch to myriad real-world tests and indignities. Commentary, not cute, is Porter's trick bag. In her thrillingly irreverent critique of wedding day anxiety, titled "No!" she has a giant plastic bride looming over a bridegroom half her size, who might run from her towering presence if his feet weren't cemented in a plastic pedestal.

La Flora: A Celebration of Signature Style runs through Nov. 27 at the Savannah Gallery, 3096 Roswell Road. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 404-816-0247. www.thesavannahgallery.com.

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