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Photo shows range from nostalgic to darkly brutal

Suburb and swamp, black and white, neo and retro -- from soup to nuts, it's all covered in the Atlanta Photography Group's fifth annual Southern Photographers exhibition. Twenty-two photographers from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, South and North Carolina submitted work for this APG invitational running through Jan. 24 at the Tula Art Center.

The five photographers chosen for the exhibition by guest curator Alison Nordstrom share -- in all but one case -- an interest in the human and architectural quirks of the South.

Judy Kuniansky's sweetly respectful black-and-white photos of backwoods good ol' boys celebrate the shaggy machismo and peculiar habits of a much disparaged Southern specimen. Sam Hill's color images of suburban sprawl survey the city's foaming-at-the-mouth propensity to build, build, build -- order, reason and aesthetics be damned.

If Hill's is a picture of the New South, Jerry Siegel's images wallow in old school nostalgia, picturing sublimely weathered buildings whose rust-red exteriors glow like beacons between green fields and blue sky in his Selma hometown. Equally nostalgic are Ted Maloof's tinted landscapes of the Okefenokee Swamp, which boast the slightly gaudy colors and instantly evocative aura of vintage postcards. The one odd man out (though he is, like the rest, an Atlanta resident) is Kerry Stuart Coppin, whose luminous black-and-white photographs depict the residents of Dakar, Senegal.

Curator Nordstrom finds the common link between these artists in how they "overcome our distance and our indifference to focus our eyes and attention on what they frame."

It is hard to be indifferent about San Francisco artist Heidi Zumbrun's hilarious, human-sized photographs of eviscerated stuffed animals on display through Dec. 31 at Fay Gold Gallery. These darling playthings are the victims of Zumbrun's merciless pit bull puppy Walter, who seems to have a special fondness for chewing out eyeball sockets and devouring entire nasal cavities, leaving little clouds of fluffy white polyester fiberfill bursting from their decimated orifices.

Zumbrun photographs these mauled and brutalized stuffed bunnies and hippos against serene white backgrounds -- as if to attest to the clinical crime scene horror of their assaults. The manufactured cuteness of these home- and factory-made lovables turns mighty dark. Even the whimsical aforementioned hippo-in-a-tutu looks rightly perturbed with his pink toe shoes scuffed with crud and a missing eyeball giving him the guise of a Balanchine ballerina after a street brawl. Though Zumbrun's personal history under the surgeon's knife certainly informs the work, her piquant, visually satisfying photographs are just as compelling without that back-story.

Photographer David Hilliard's frieze-like C-prints, which can be seen through Jan. 11 at Jackson Fine Art, are devoted to the life stages of male desire -- from swing sets to locker rooms to plywood paneled dens. Eroticism is a complex and far-ranging thing in Hilliard's solo show Catch and Release. It encompasses little boys beaming with pride over their blue ribbon-winning calves; buff football players flexing their muscles for the camera and old men eating glazed donuts while watching nubile young things get it on on color TVs.

It is the children who prove the most interesting subjects because their pleasure is so subterranean and indirect, while that of the geezer reading Playboy in bed leaves little mystery about the pleasure principle at work. Hilliard is onto interesting material involving how eroticism shifts with age, from the personal and inspired to the passive and routine, but his use of multiple images stitched together and the often self-consciously theatrical arrangements of his players prove a distraction from those intriguing ideas.

IMAGE Film & Video Center and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center are moving forward on their plans, conceived a year ago, to share facility space at the Contemporary's 535 Means St. site.

The organizations received a grant last year from the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund to study the feasibility of sharing a building. They are now entering the site planning stage, which will last six to eight months.

The building currently houses the Contemporary's galleries, artist studios and Nexus Press. How it will be altered to accommodate the two organizations is still unknown, though a price tag of $8 million has been placed on the project. One thing's for certain. The facility will contain a theater that seats about 250.

IMAGE and the Contemporary will remain separate entities, each with its own board of directors. A third entity, the Management Service Organization, will be formed to oversee capital fundraising efforts and shared use of the space.

IMAGE tentatively plans to move from its space in the Tula arts complex on Bennett Street to the Means Street site in September 2004, which is roughly when capital fundraising efforts will begin. A groundbreaking date has not been set.

felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.com



For Art's Sake is a biweekly column covering the arts in Atlanta.

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