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Saturday, November 3, 2012 - Page updated at 05:30 a.m.

Art review
Sisko Gallery scares up some 'Creatures of the Night'

By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times arts writer

They can be human or reptilian, winged or pawed, angelic or diabolic.

Whichever they are, they're suitable subjects for a Halloween-themed exhibit.

That's what the recently reopened Sisko Gallery has lined up with "Creatures of the Night," a group show featuring work by seven artists.

Thomas Wood makes the most macabre splash with his aquatint etchings. In "Some Beasts Will Eat Anything," two wolf-headed creatures sate their appetites — one with unabashed delight, the other more furtively. The oddities of the image are heightened by the way one of the victims rests on his side, Christ-like, patiently awaiting consumption.

Other Wood highlights include "Vase of Creatures," with its cornucopia of distorted human and animal faces, and "The Terrible Boy" who, with his twisted lips and overgrown ears, looks older and sadder than the word "boy" suggests.

Charles Emerson's oil-on-canvas "Trajectory of Angels" evokes the essence rather than specifics of angelic beings making fiery, ethereal traceries across a backdrop of autumnal colors. Michael Bergt's gouache/colored-pencil "Omen" hints at a homoerotic variation on Hitchcock's "The Birds," as its male model gazes sullenly at you over his shoulder while stylized crow silhouettes hover behind him.

Bergt also contributes one of several striking sculptures in the show "Fallen Angel." Its potbellied figure in bronze is missing one wing and has his head tilted back and right leg striding forward, as though without a care in the world. His "fall" has less to do with agony than insouciance.

Steve Worthington's huge bronze toad, "Big Boy," greets you at the gallery entrance. With its hooded eyes and ridge and warty skin, it has a powerful presence. Worthington's scampering life-size mice in bronze — "Sprightly," "Nosey," "Chubby" and "Pugnacious" — have a more festive air.

Gallery owner John Sisko doesn't often blow his own horn as a sculptor, but he's right to include some of his bronzes in this show — especially his disembodied "Seated Arm" which, with knuckles anchoring it to its pedestal, rises counterintuitively into the air, and his two takes on the Minotaur legend, in which male figures, hands knotted behind their backs, engage in a struggle with the feral. The curiously mottled surfaces of Sisko's minotaurs add to the marble-like richness of their appearances.

There are a few questionable items in the show — John Cole's gentle autumn landscape, "On the Skagit," seems out of place — but there's enough spookiness here to keep the Halloween spirit going into November.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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