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Tool Time 

A paintbrush shouldn't have a personality, but somehow in Philip Carpenter's artwork, it does.

Carpenter captures the physical quirks and life-worn patina of a variety of ordinary objects in his drawings on display at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In the Atrium - encircled by Paschal's restaurant, the din of cocktail swilling and myriad other distractions - Carpenter's Work and Play drawings provide serene, soulful contrast to their environment. As much as anything can compete with the mania of a busy airport, Carpenter's elegant drawings are traffic-stoppers. The Atlanta Department of Aviation's art program, begun in 1979, is a consistently delightful but also masochistic endeavor, in which the ethereal goes head-to-head with the worldly.

Carpenter, perhaps yoked to the destiny of his surname, is especially hot on tools. His is a he-man litany of hammers, wrenches, scythes, tongs, drills and paint scrapers, all exquisitely, meticulously drawn with colored pencil into photorealist images. The objects are the occupants of tool sheds, cluttered desks and occasionally playgrounds. In a few cases, such as the shockingly intense red, blue and yellow plastic tricycle, the objects conspire not to make Jack a dull boy.

Rust, sheen, age and newness all tell their tales.

"Paint Brush" has the aura of old people who have spent their lives in honest, character-building labor. Carpenter draws his objects against a white backdrop where they are highlighted like supermodels. Isolated in that way, the notch in the gray bristles of the paintbrush becomes like an identifying mole on someone's face, and the hole on its handle is as crucial as the eyes or nose in a traditional portrait. The paint-smeared, battered surface takes on the dimensions of a furrowed and spotted countenance.

And like the human visage captured by a skilled photographer or painter, these "ordinary things," as Carpenter calls them, can cast a similar spell.

felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.comWork and Play: Drawings by Philip Carpenter. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Atrium Gallery, through March 2. 404-530-4289.

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