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You're Never Too Old to Play With Toys at Krista Birnbaum's "Courage" Exhibit in Houston

Just as nature morphs with the changing of the seasons, new works by Krista Birnbaum have shifted from her previous fascination with mice and plants to a new playing field, this time influenced by motherhood and her little girl.

In her “Courage” exhibit at Gspot Contemporary Art Space, literally two blocks over from its previous home on 11th Street in the Heights, Birnbaum offers up a few icy and crystalline nature-inspired archival prints, a very Zen and manicured garden image from her previous “Curb Appeal” series and some playful photographs featuring fearless super-heroines.

The underlying narrative in her punk superhero series leaves the viewer wanting to know more. Hung together are Strong female role models (Persistence), (Industry) and (Energy). (Persistence) shows a distorted view of three warrior femmes standing together, ready to do battle with whatever villain comes their way. While it’s hard to divine the story in (Industry), (Energy) exudes power, with the purple-haired and masked character sporting a collar of flames.

Honestly… features a blue-winged creature floating in a milky white base, surrounded by bits of plastic toys. It’s lovely in its composition and brightly saturated colors. She appears again in IDK…, though I also don’t know what happened. Our poor heroine seems to have been marred, melted and to have become misshapen, excised from her safe pool of milk into the shape of a cross, as if she has been crucified.

Perhaps the most successful is Rookie Mistake, as our futuristic fighter punches the colorful jelly-colored planets out toward the viewer and away from the canvas, while Winning at this shows a purple masked character emerging from the murky depths.

Several other pieces are pretty without trying for narrative. Birnbaum begins with photographs of organic plants and adds layer upon layer, mixing in manufactured objects (perhaps Christmas decor) until they all morph together into a cohesive composition. Stripped of color until all that remains is crystalline white, she adds burgundy and silver back in for contrast. Three archival prints on aluminum are titled Sorry, TMI, and three are titled I’m just going to put this out there (1), (2) and (3).

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Two other photographs from a home environment round out the show. You’re not there yet offers a pet or child’s view looking up at the underbelly of a whale, and the star of Just you wait is a pink plastic space creature.

It’s an interesting next chapter for Birnbaum, whose previous works with mice included technical drawings and actual contraptions for the rodents. After all, who wouldn’t want a see-through mouse enclosure built into his or her foot molding?

If you’ve been through customs at William P. Hobby Airport, you’ve seen her Roadside Attraction public art installation on the long wall in what used to be a sterile hallway. Now incoming travelers are welcomed to Texas by her panoramic and colorful native wildflower scene.

“Courage” continues through August 3 at Gspot Contemporary Art Space, 310 East 9th Street, open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., 713-869-4770, ggalleryhouston.com. Free.

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