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In pursuit of Cloar 

Find him at the Arkansas Arts Center.

click to enlarge 'HOSTILE BUTTERFLIES': One of Cloar's works comes home image
  • 'HOSTILE BUTTERFLIES': One of Cloar's works comes home.

"Children Pursued by Hostile Butterflies," painted in 1965, is possibly Carroll Cloar's masterpiece. Reproductions of Cloar's tempera on Masonite in books, newspapers and digitally don't do it justice. Thanks to an alliance of the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis and the Arkansas Arts Center, and its loan to them by owners Dr. Deborah and Scott Ferguson, visitors to "The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South" will be able to see the tempera painting in the flesh starting Feb. 28 at the Arts Center.

Carroll Cloar was born outside Earle (Crittenden County) 101 years ago and "Crossroads," which opened at the Brooks last summer, was organized to celebrate the centennial. Thanks to his trademark flat, pointillist scenes of an Arkansas Delta where children are baptized in the creek ("The Baptising of Charlie Mae (1978)" rivals "Hostile Butterflies"), families wait at train stations, girls are moonstruck and ghosts appear by their tombstones, Arkansans think of Cloar as their own, though he moved to Memphis as a teenager and lived, with the exception of forays to the Arts Student League in New York and other travels, the rest of his life.

The exhibit at the Arts Center pulls together 70 paintings, some rarely exhibited, from 47 public and private collections, including those of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as the Arts Center. Stanton Thomas, curator of European and decorative art at the Brooks, curated the exhibition. Also among the works are the painting used in the Clinton inaugural posters, "Faculty and Honor Students Lewis School House (1966)," in which two women in white hold the American flag backward. Because they were painted from photographs, Cloar's subjects are stiff but his stylization makes them marvelous.

Thomas will give a talk about the exhibition at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27; the lecture is sold out.

As a companion show, the Arts Center is exhibiting works by Southern artists and photographers that create a context for Cloar's work, "Ties that Bind: Southern Art from the Collection." Included in that show are paintings by Louis Freund, Henry Linton, Virginia Purvis and Al Allen and photographs by Louis Guida, Cheryl Cohen, Paul DeRigne and Mike Disfarmer.

Greg Thompson Fine Art is also paying homage to Cloar with its show, "Carroll Cloar: A Road Less Traveled," featuring 23 paintings and drawings, some for sale. Charlie Mae appears at Greg Thompson as well in "Charlie Mae as a Baby (1973)." Thompson will give a talk about the show at 1 p.m. March 15; cost is $10.

Hearne Fine Art, 1001 Wright Ave., opens an exhibition of work by Chicago artist Lawrence Finney, "From a Whisper to a Conversation to a Shout," on Friday, Feb. 25. The works, both two and three-dimensional, in charcoal, wood assemblage and oil, are Bible-inspired.

Finney studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he was born, and the School of the Visual Arts in New York. The work is a move away from the social realist work of the 1990s and early 21st century; in an artist's statement, Finney says, "My present world is more focused on spiritual meaning centered on my Christian faith. I am utilizing a style more reflective of the observed natural world, light still an important element in the work, my goal being to reflect God's presence in the ordinary and everyday things of the natural world."

The show runs through April 25. There will be 2nd Friday Art Night receptions at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. April 11, and a talk by the artist at 2 p.m. April 12.

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