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From Big House to living room 

Art emerges where least expected

The letters began arriving in December 2002. The return address was Wilcox State Prison in Abbeville, Ga., where Bernard Patrick, aka "B. Pat.," serves a 15-year sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping. The traditional, business-style envelopes displayed exquisitely detailed illustrations, such as tigers, roses laced with thorns, or images of a man whose neck was encircled by a metal cuff and chain.

Bill Bounds was struck by the "the art of the note" as well as Patrick's eloquent, carefully phrased style written from "the morbid depths of a prison cage." Bounds, the proprietor of the 1,000-square-foot Ty Stokes Gallery in Castleberry Hill, decided to take the artist up on his offer to show his work. Forty-four of Patrick's pieces on paper are currently on view in "Prison Art" at Ty Stokes through June 8.

Crafted from ad hoc art supplies in a prison which restricts actual art materials, Patrick's canvases are cardboard and his media crushed candy bars, mustard, toothpaste, coffee creamer and anything else the artist can find in his urgent desire to express himself. An accompanying note taped to the gallery wall attests, "Prison is hell. There is a heaviness to captivity and prison that distorts human laughter, that covers human hope with despair-colored feelings of alienation and ruin." Patrick's anxious, fearful, distorted self-portraits in "Prison Art" make his self his obsession. The work expresses the idea of dwelling perpetually in one's own head.

A jocular, enthusiastic former banker, Bounds is slightly apologetic when first offering a tour of his "gallery." He lets viewers know Ty Stokes is not a gallery in the traditional sense, but rather an effort to take advantage of extra space in his family's large loft home to continue his lifelong interest in art.

Named for the building's previous incarnation as a cap and gown emporium, the Ty Stokes Gallery occupies the downstairs level of the two-story, art-filled loft Bounds shares with his family. Bounds, his wife SueSue and their two teenage children have lived in the Castleberry district for four years and taken like ducks to water to the area's gritty extremes, where million-dollar loft renovations rub up against soup kitchens and funeral parlors. Bounds sees Castleberry as an antidote to the sterile life of the suburbs, just as showing work like Patrick's allows a communication with a world far from his own.

Sacred space
Bounds' Castleberry neighbor Diane Hause is another gallery-occupant whose curating suggests a kind of grassroots activism.

Like Bounds, Hause essentially invites the world into the welcoming and intimate space of her home in order to reach across the socioeconomic and cultural divides that can characterize life in Atlanta. Her serene 3Ten Haustudio ( gallery is the downstairs in her spectacular three-story live/work space. Hause has featured numerous shows of her own work at the 2,400-square-foot Haustudio, where openings become multimedia events that combine musical performances, spoken word, ethnic cooking and fundraising for causes from Sudan's "Lost Boys," to Navajo weavers and Afghan women.

Hause blends Buddhism, Christianity and Island in her mixed-media collages and paintings of "A Convergence of Faiths" through June 14. The artist gives her exploratory, spiritual treatment to an idea that weighs heavily on many minds since Sept. 11, of how to wrest meaning from an often ugly, chaotic, war-torn world.

All Aboard
Another unexpected space hosts a different idiosyncratic living room exhibition. The Salon Des Resolus (404-944-8875) occupies a cramped, ramshackle railroad flat at 456 Sinclair Ave. The front yard features Deidra Currie's sculpture of precariously balanced chairs and a portrait of that dynamic '70s duo, Nixon and Elvis. For several months, the space also featured artist and occupant Jason Johnson's admittedly "very sensual rendition" of Jesus in its front yard. Johnson, the Salon's curator, lives in a basement apartment below the exhibition space.

In defiance of the usual scrubbed, white, airy gallery vibe, the Salon filters light with fabric draped over the windows, and, with its gold-painted walls, has a general rich, jewel-toned, cluttered effect that's more 19th than 21st century. The psychologically intense, florid style of the work now on display continues that mood.

The Salon currently features paintings by four thirty- and fortysomething Atlanta-based artists hailing from Mexico City (Marco Razo), Italy (Albino Mattioli), Chattanooga (Thomas Tulis) and Kentucky (Johnson himself). Johnson says they all bring social issues, politics and other real world concerns to bear on their work.

It's an honor
After its recent financial problems, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center finds some validation of its importance to the Atlanta arts community with an $100,000 grant from the Warhol Foundation. The grant aids artist-centered visual arts groups in infrastructure needs, which may include information technology, financial systems, strategic planning and marketing strategies.

For Art's Sake is a biweekly column on Atlanta's visual arts scene.

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