USF students star at West Tampa Center for the Arts

Sculptures of the macabre in miniature.

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[5]art — that gallery-within-a-gallery housed at the West Tampa Center for the Arts — showcases a pair of USF grad students in a curiously creepy show. In Each Day Is Better Than the Next..., Allen Hampton and April Childers present a series of sculptures that incorporate miniature figures enacting macabre narratives. Take Hampton's "Counting Centuries," a fox's head mounted on a circular wood plaque; straight-up taxidermy at first glance, it reveals a dark tale at close range. A tiny, male figure dangles from a noose tied to one of the animal's fangs; above, on the fox's lower lip, an inch-tall woman clad in a blue dress searches the horizon in vain for her suicidal lover.

Other pieces build on the same themes of pain, loss, isolation and irony. Childers' "Seat for the Devil's Milk Churn" traps a miniature cow whose two front legs have been chopped off in a glass bottle sealed with a pasture-topped cork. Her "Birds Are Smart" introduces a circling bird (presumably, one attracted to carrion) above a vase with a small figure languishing inside.

These depressing parables might be unbearable if it weren't for the perverse fascination miniatures exert on viewers. While Hampton's narrative of a murderer burying a body near a train track might chill your spine, you'll wonder how he managed to fit the whole scene on the blade of a chainsaw and make it so damn cute. (With a smattering of tiny red flowers on a verdant landscape, no less!) This show is definitely weird, but also absolutely worth checking out.

[5]art is located at 1906 N. Armenia Ave., #211, and is open by appointment only. For more information, go to five-art.com or call 813-340-9056.

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