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Bear and Bird heads back to square one

A massive, orange-and-white speckled creature with five eyes towers above a forest with in Lindsay Watson's gouache-on-wood "Do You See It?"

"Little Baguette Goes to Paris," an acrylic-on-wood by Smallrus, depicts a mustached animal in a red beret holding a baguette. Behind it, the Eiffel Tower rises into a sky filled with red and pink hearts and two clouds, which also are wearing berets.

Then, there's "Albert Einstein," Stephen Schutt's colored pencil-on-paper.

The speckled creature, the baguette-toting animal and the German-born physicist will all be in attendance at "Hip To Be Square," a group exhibition that will open Jan. 18 at Bear and Bird Gallery in Lauderhill. The show, which will feature more than 100 pieces, was open to any artist who wished to display one square work measuring 14-by-14 inches or smaller.

The dimensions are a good fit for the 700-square-foot loft gallery inside Tate's Comics. "I find it aesthetically pleasing to have them all in the same shape," Bear and Bird owner Amanda Magnetta-Ottati says. "It's a way to have the [works] be unified in a theme, without it being a theme that's restrictive."

Brenna Verner embraced the square theme by creating "Sweet Tooth," a square-headed, vinyl figure in an open-faced box, on which she drew and painted animals and sugary treats. The creature, which stands atop a plush, pink-frosted doughnut, has a rotatable blockhead with six sides, five of which depict different faces. There's a cat, a rabbit, a dog and, of course, a bear and a bird, each eating a treat.

"I wanted to create a piece that would give a nostalgic feeling and make the viewer smile, perhaps even inspire a craving for their favorite dessert," Verner says.

"Every Little Thing," an ink-and-colored-pencil work by Alisha "Tevokkia" VanHoose Torres, is equally sweet. It depicts a young woman, with big, swirly hair and long eyelashes holding a sleeping baby on her lap. "The piece was originally supposed to be a younger girl with a kitten, but my 3-year-old daughter decided to curl up on my lap as I was first sketching it out," Torres says. "I thought it was sweet, and changed up the composition a bit."

Magnetta-Ottati says open-call shows such as "Hip To Be Square" offer an opportunity to artists who don't often show their work. Some of the selected artists may even be invited to participate in one of the venue's curated exhibitions.

The shows also inspire budding collectors. "We sell a surprising amount at local shows because people support their friends, and much of the art is really affordable," Magnetta-Ottati says, "so there will be things that are $5."

But those small purchases can act like a gateway drug.

"Collecting art is an addiction," Magnetta-Ottati warns. "So next, a $20 painting isn't that big of a deal, then $100 and then it's, 'Oh, I really love this. But it's $300. So I will save up my money, and I'll buy it.'"

Colleen Dougher operates the South Florida arts blog Arterpillar.

Hip To Be Square

When: Opens 6-10 p.m. Jan. 18 and runs through March 2

Where: Bear and Bird, 4566 N. University Drive, Lauderhill

Cost: Free

Contact: 954-748-0181 or

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