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Spring Forward 

Art is blooming all over Charlotte

Paper-thin onionskin, stitches and artifice.

Epidermis, SOUP and Wonderlands gone awry.

Chocolate, grapes and nature rearranged.

These lines are not an erratic form of haiku, but words used to identify, signify or describe a sampling of the current shows in Charlotte this heady spring.

SOUP is the title of an exhibition of recent work by Selena Beaudry, Kit Kube, Jennifer Gilomen, Sarah Hendershot-Simpson, Joel Morris, Felicia Van Bork and Clayton Venhuizen, on view at Hart Witzen Gallery. This interdisciplinary exhibition has a grand ambition: It promotes "national and regional emerging artists exploring themes in contemporary art." Charlotte needs more of that.

During Gallery Crawl, a lot of new shows are slated to open this Friday. As daylight lingers into the evening, expect extensive activity in all three major art scenes, though at different times of night. Whether you start in SouthEnd, NoDa or downtown, there are enough vibrant venues to make all three areas attractive.

Can you take them all in? In a single evening, you can stagger the timing of your arrivals and departures. Start early enough in the evening and you just may hit all three, but your visits would have to be brief, and you could taste only a smattering of art experience. Some galleries stay open a little later, but many close at 8pm. Perhaps you should spend less time on the road and more time looking at, and even buying, the art.

SouthEnd's newest kid on the block, Poseur, upstairs at 1514-C Camden Road, would be a good place to start. It has a Grand Opening reception that begins early, promptly at 6pm. This small studio combines artistic talents with the Pilates studio next door, and the event is timed to end precisely at 8pm with a silent auction of small paintings for charity. All proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society.

Nearby, Modern Eye Gallery, also in SouthEnd, stays open till 9pm. Hart-Witzen Gallery, located at 136 E. 36th St., is open until 10pm.

Art viewing doesn't end with Gallery Crawl, of course. Another day, go north to Davidson College Department of Art to find "Wonderlands Gone Awry" in Under the Rug, Oil on Canvas Black Fairy Tales ... and Other Myths Paintings Drawings by McArthur Freeman II, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art. This show's on view through Friday, April 14, in the Belk Visual Arts Center. Mr. Freeman describes his work as "narrative paintings, drawings and installations exploring race, double consciousness and the construction of identity."

"Chocolate, Grapes and Nature Rearranged" all suggest the work of Erika Diamond, now showing in Epidermis in the 7th Street Windows (at the side of TransAmerica Square between Tryon and Church Streets). It's an intriguing installation displaying artfully hanging onion skins removed from their bulbs and sewn carefully back together by human hands. This is a delightfully strange and witty restructuring of nature.

The artist promises that onion varieties will be "changed out" from yellow onion skins to red to white every two months until July. Stroll by for an up-front view of Diamond's delicately sewn objects curated by the McColl Center for Visual Art, where Diamond will be a Summer Affiliate Artist later this year.

"Peel me a grape, Beulah," my mother used to joke when she was pretending to be a lady of luxury with someone waiting on her. Ms. Diamond thinks about the fruit of the vines, too, as she switches her sharp gaze to grape skins in four "Grape Maps." They're presently showing at the Bank of America Plaza (SE corner of Trade and Tryon) as part of the High Fiber exhibit curated by Joie Lassiter Gallery. These carefully rendered artworks are as obsessive in concept and execution as Diamond's onionskins, constructed as they are of peeled grape skins mounted on fabric. FYI: Diamond's "day job" accosts the taste buds in a totally different, very succulent way. If you're into chocolate, look at the mouth-watering Web page of edible sculptures: www.sulaschocolates.com/art.

If you haven't incorporated Crosscurrents Art, Craft and Design in North Carolina into your art-viewing schedule yet, this splendid array of work is a must-see, not least because it encompasses the work of in-state artists. As the Mint intones, "North Carolina has long prided itself on being the 'State of the Arts.' That boast is never truer than today."

To celebrate this "cultural wealth," the Mint Museums joined forces with the North Carolina Museum of Art to produce Crosscurrents, a "major statewide exhibition." It's a pretty good effort, too, featuring work by established and emerging artists who work in both traditional and non-traditional art media. Some are site-specific: Check out the koi pond! It's on view in Charlotte's Mint Museum of Craft + Design through Sunday, August 6.

This spring in Charlotte, art -- like nature -- is busting out all over.

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