Seasonal merriment from Paris to Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo 12/19/13 (Review) -- With bright, merry colors; a touch of the whimsical; and a new holiday play set in gay Paree, 'tis the season for the artists at Columbia's Orr Street Studios, three of whom have been Heart Beat "artists of the month." 
Seems only fitting that we take readers on a virtual tour of the studio to encourage a real tour -- and some gift-buying, of course -- like we did nearby Artlandish Gallery a couple years ago. 

Click the links to see the works. 

Our December artist of the month, photographer Anastasia Pottinger, may be best known for her uncanny ability to capture the rapture of the human spirit.   Scroll down her Orr Street page and you find happy children and pensive teens; the weathered fissures of old age;  the utter delight of being (almost) new born. 

A favorite of mine and my family, Jenny McGee has a flair for the abstract to which she has added an understated palette of lush, natural colors in the pieces exhibited on this page.  
Another Heart Beat artist of the month whose work hangs above our fireplace mantel, McGee has painted with the lyrical colors of a Christmas rainbow:  rich blood-orange reds; the pears and greens of a yummy holiday salad (look closely to see the human spirit);  the blues and whites of Christmas morning, all frigid and icy, like windows in winter.  

Heart Beat artist of the month Marilyn Cummins brings us closer to home, with a portrait of the Burr Oak near McBaine; solitary hay bales in a field; and one of my favorites, the same Woodford outdoor faucet handle we have in our back yard.  There may be nothing more evocative of midwest life, which Cummins captures in fine detail. 

Catherine Parke -- whose work also hangs in our home -- has painted what may be my favorite winter scene, five oranges that seem caught in the grip of a quick, gray frost.  
It must be a very recent frost, for the oranges retain their bright colors -- even the stems are still green.  Whether Parke meant to paint a winter scene I cannot say -- it's merely an interpretation, just as it is when I say she seems to have captured the lively essence of a peacock in the third painting on this page.  
I like to imagine Parke -- a retired English professor -- painting with some subconscious recollection of the great American author Flannery O'Connor, famous for her use of peacocks as symbols of the human condition.   Parke will be this January's artist of the month, btw.
Rounding out the holiday spirit at Orr Street is C'tait la Nuit ('Twas the Night), a new play from the Greenhouse Theatre Project.  

A coming of age tale set on the verge of a Parisian Christmas Eve, C'tait la Nuit  tells of a young man who sets out to find his birth parents -- the poet and cabaret singer who gave him up for adoption in France.   He runs across an assortment of characters straight out of Dickens.  Christmas is the story of a birth, to adoptive parents (in the Biblical sense), so it seems a fitting subject for a play set around Christmas time. 

C'tait la Nuit  plays at Orr Street Studios, 7:30 p.m. tonight through Sunday.

Visit the studio at 106 Orr Street in Columbia, in the heart of the North Village Arts District. 
-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat