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Visual Edge: Randy Bolton and Holly Senn at UPS

Excellent art exhibits at Kittredge Gallery

"Hard Lessons," silk screen print by Randy Bolton

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The Kittredge Gallery at University of Puget Sound has two excellent art exhibits through Nov. 9. The front gallery features prints by Randy Bolton that provide delightful and thoughtful commentary on the world we live in. The title of his show, "Have a Terrific Great Nice OK Day," offers a pretty good clue as to the nature of Bolton's prints. The back gallery features paper sculptures of nests by Holly Senn. Whereas Bolton's prints are funny, Senn's sculptures are beautiful, delicate and as elegant as expensive china.

Bolton's prints offer visual puns and life lessons in a style reminiscent of 1950s commercial art or early American decorative prints, some with surprises of the Rene Magritte variety. His silk screens employ bright but slightly muted colors - a lot of orange, which seems appropriate for the time of year. What I find most interesting about his prints is the surface quality. There is a kind of grittiness to them as if they were printed using silk screens with a much coarser weave than the usual. This grittiness is quite attractive.

"Mountainous, Monotonous" is a group of six prints with figures in front of a background image of mountains and the words from the title printed in script with odd spacing across the images in such a way that this simple play on words becomes quite engaging.

"Stalactites & Stalagmites" presents an interesting twist on imaging these two opposite and invariably confused cave formations. Instead of rock formations in caves they are icicles on tree limbs dripping up and down.

"Yes We Can" is both a pun and a message about consumerism and litter. A clutter of no-littering signs and other junk destroy a peaceful scene with an idyllic white picket fence. The title reminds us of Obama's 2008 campaign slogan, and the word "can" may be read as both a verb and a noun, each of which is appropriate to the images in this three-part print.

Bolton's puns, concrete poetry and social commentary are all enjoyable, but it is the artistic strength of his imagery that makes this show worth seeing.

Senn's show, "Scavenged," features free-standing and wall-hanging sculptures of birds' nests inspired by specimens from the collection of some 1,300 bird nests at Puget Sound's Slater Museum of Natural History and made from strips of paper cut from discarded library books - some actual nests on loan from the museum are included. They are intelligent in concept and intricately constructed. Two of the hanging pieces, a trio of blackbird nests and a trio of cliff swallow nests suspended in front of dark brown walls, are minimalist sculpture as striking as any seen anywhere.

"HAVE A TERRIFIC GREAT NICE OK DAY" and "SCAVENGED," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, through Nov. 9, Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701

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