Mari Omori first captured my eye - and my imagination - as part of a brilliant two-person show at Total Plaza in July. She is Japanese born, now a Houston resident and educator, and she creates delicate, graceful, surprising art through use of teabags . . . yes, teabags! I quickly forgot the sheer novelty, as the results stand on their own as art.
Here in the "Raw Material" exhibit she shows pyramid dreams, a half-ruff, white, so elegant that it might be worn as a necklace to the opening of a world-famous opera. A large wall-hung work, Katachi, 83 inches by 45 inches by 2 inches, might be an Australian aborigine's flattened kayak. It has various shades of white and brown, and looks like wood, but of course it's not. Orb Web is a gossamer sail hung high that might easily carry Peter Pan to Neverland. It has elegance and style.
There is a witty circular tray of multiple teabags, with 'He loves me" alternating with "He loves me not" carefully drawn on the underside. There is a wooden box with what looks like biscuits stacked in it, titled harvest moon, and it has a quiet charm, but I have no idea what is going on.
Omori uses all elements of a teabag, including sometimes the packaging, and it is surprising how many graduation of color become available to her. Her art is obviously labor-intensive, but the most surprising aspect is how quickly we forget her materials, and savor the grace and distinction of her art.
Hunter Gather Galley features both established and emerging artists. Omori is obviously the former.
Kia Neill shows a graceful, delicate watercolor of a tree, with a strong trunk to anchor it, titled Spore Study #14. It has a strange beauty, and a pleasing composition. She has two interesting still life sculptures: one, Various Fragments of Fossilized Vessels, consists of delicate, broken shells of eggs, perhaps dinosaurs? The other, Opalized Coral, groups what might be small candlestick holders for tapers. While minor works because of their diminutive size, their arrangement and variety suggest that Neill might be comfortable working with larger sculptures.
Her Spore Study #16 portrays what seems to be a fiery dragon fighting with its fiery tail. Her small, wall-hung Partial Skeleton I liked least of her work, as it lacked grace, and came close to being repellent.
Cassie Normandy White has a large collage, Stolen Tricks, 88 inches by 60 inches, that is festive and exuberant, with colorful petals and flowers, and the bottom left square totally empty, an act of courage that pays off. White's work is not polished in its presentation, and this work consists of four squares pinned next to each other, to complete the painting. It is so successful that the roughness hardly matters.
White also is showing Populations, composed of 25 small individual works arrayed five across and five down. Each image is a double one, so it yields ten images across. It has interesting shapes, intriguing color combinations, and many individual works seem involving, even entrancing. But the impact of fifty images buttonholing me to gain my attention was more than I could bear, and I couldn't summon up enthusiasm for it. In a private home, where more leisure time would be available, this richness might prove invaluable.
Raw Material (works by Mari Omori, Kia Neill, and Cassie Normandy White) continues through January 10 at Hunter Gather Projects, 5320 Gulfton Street Suite 15. Open Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., 713-664-3302, huntergatherproject.com