Galleries Visual Arts

Blue Spiral 1: Animalia

Hibernating Bear, mixed media and bullets. Mary Engel, artist

By Natasha Anderson

Blue Spiral 1 (BS1) presents Animalia, an exhibition featuring the work of five artists with unique approaches to the representation of animals. The show, located in BS1’s lower level gallery, runs through Friday, February 23.

“Artists who primarily focus on animal life aren’t often recognized as creating provocative work in the contemporary realm,” says BS1’s assistant director Candace Reilly. “Yet, as we were putting our exhibition calendar together, we kept coming across these incredibly skilled artists who create thoughtful and unique responses to the animal as subject.”

The show includes the work of BS1 permanent artists Douglas Miller, Mary Engel and Janet Brome, as well as that of Diane Fox and Chris Musina. The manner in which they portray their subjects is as varied as the media they work in.

Miller, in an effort to show that interpretation is complicated and imprecise, produces drawings that deal with animals in an unfinished or altered state. “I’ve always been interested in work that reveals layers of meaning and images that move between what is represented and how it was made,” he says. His artwork can be found in the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, the University of Louisville, the Speed School of Engineering and numerous private collections.

Capturing animals’ movements and revealing their spiritual presence is important to Engel, who creates whimsical animal sculptures embellished with bits and pieces and small figurines. Her work has been exhibited at several museums including the Fine Arts Museum of the South and the South Carolina State Museum. Her ceramics are in private collections throughout the United States.

Brome, who bends and twists wire mesh into birds, fish and other animals, lets her subject matter dictate her medium and approach. She strives to constantly explore and take risks as she creates pieces that reveal surprises from every angle. She has worked as a fashion illustrator and a potter and has taught art classes at various public and private institutions.

Photographer and graphic designer Fox, whose work is shown internationally, presents a series of images of museum dioramas. “There is always an element that gives viewers a clue that they are looking at an artificial representation of nature,” she says. “I wish for them to be first captivated by the beauty of the animal and the environment, and only upon closer inspection to become aware of its falseness.”

Musina, who has exhibited throughout the US and in Canada, paints explorations of how animals exist as a part of human culture. “I’m interested in how we look at animals, how we think about them and how we represent them,” he says. “I think our relationship to animals and our animal selves is something that is beautiful, but can also be pretty uncomfortable. I hope to convey that.”

Blue Spiral 1 is located at 38 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or call 828.251.0202.

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