Couple capture both sides of life Art review Works of married sculptors are shown side-by-side. A little fine-tuning would be nice.

March 07, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Artists Mary Deacon Opasik and Jim Opasik are married to one another. They produce separate work, but it has enough in common that one might think the work of each would be enhanced in the company of the other's. Their current retrospective at Baltimore Life leaves one thinking that's not entirely true.

Both are sculptors who assemble their works, and both create primarily wall-hung works (though some of Mr. Opasik's pieces are free-standing).

He makes delightfully lighthearted sculptures, representing animals and people, out of kitchen utensils pots, pans, platters, spoons, forks, etc.

She makes more somber works of found objects -- often old furniture parts and pieces of metal put together usually to represent people.

His works cover a spectrum of personalities, from the sleepy-eyed elephant "Pan-A-Phant" (trunk of pans, pastry bag tusks and meat platter ears), to the forlorn "Sad-Man" with a wok face and can opener eyebrows, to the menacing snake "Soupentine," mouth open, fangs showing, about to strike.

At bottom these works are pure fun, and more power to them. The idea of a boxing bunny is funny enough, quite aside from the look of "Thugs Bunny," with his dukes up and his bushy tail made of forks. And "Soupentine" might frighten you for a minute, but who can really be scared of a snake made of soup spoons? Hooray for someone who unapologetically brings a little humor into our lives. Ms. Opasik's sculptures deal with such subjects as birth, death, home and family. "Homecoming" is a door with pieces of mirror attached to its front, and a chain where its handle would be. Yes, the door to home has a lot of meaning, for home always pulls us back one way or another, whether we want to go or not, as surely as if we were attached to it by a long chain.

"Single Parent" consists of one big figure and one small figure (the parent and child), both made of much the same materials (mostly chair parts) and looking almost exactly alike. This may be saying that if you grow up with one parent you'll be more narrowly formed than if you'd grown up with two.

The problem with the Opasiks'works hanging together is that the humor in his can spill over unwanted onto hers, and make us see humor where none is intended. Her "Born Anew," placed right next to his "Pan-A-Phant," offers a case in point. A brochure on her work contains an essay that discusses this work's gravity, and the baby's open-mouthed cry can certainly be taken as a cry of separation from a parent who will never fully own it again. But the first impression, coming off of Mr. Opasik's elephant, is just of a bawling baby and what a racket it must be making.

If one must make a bit more of an effort to understand the import of Ms. Opasik's works when they're seen in the context of Mr. Opasik's, they're interesting enough that we want to make the effort. And this show gives us the opportunity to see a large body of each artist's work (29 of his, 24 of hers).

There's one major flaw here: The list of works gives no dates, a particularly unfortunate omission for a retrospective, which is supposed to be a show that traces an artist's career.

'Opasiks to Date

What: A retrospective of the works of Mary Deacon Opasik and Jim Opasik

Where: The Baltimore Life Gallery, 10075 Red Run Blvd., Owings Mills

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, through March 28

Call: (410) 581-6600, Ext. 3137

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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