At its core, art in our culture is a transformative phenomenon. An artist takes mundane materials like a brush, paint and a canvas and transforms them – almost alchemically – into something with a powerful presence. Art can be critical or confrontational. Or it can whimsically re-imagine its subjects and let us in on fantasies, dreams and utopias. Just to imagine something, after all, is to transform it.
The culture of art struggles with this power – and often lashes back with realism or literalism. On one hand, we want artistic culture to be powerful enough to transform society, but we also hanker for the foothold of recognition.
ADAM MANLEY, “STAYING PUT,” SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, space538.org, noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, through Sept. 6.
VERONICA CROSS LESIA SOCHOR, “OF WOMEN BY WOMEN,” Elizabeth