Two new exhibits explore the invisible world around us and its effect on our lives.

Clay artist Maggie Quinn felt the presence of spirits of the past as soon as she stepped foot in Jamaica decades ago.

"It felt like I was coming home," she says.

Her new show, "Midnight Choir," opens at The Modbo Friday, in conjunction with "Hzazh," drawings by Langdon Foss, at S.P.Q.R.

Quinn's central piece, "Ancestors," a stoneware face embedded with small faces on one side, is haloed by a headdress of midnight black bird feathers. She conceived the piece in Jamaica, where she goes every year for a two-week pottery sabbatical.

This piece and others in her show were inspired by the "beings and influences that have come to me, that dictate my life and my world."

She's also influenced by the Native American belief that birds are ancestors come to visit. Owls, for instance, are said to carry the spirits of the dead.

"Old Pirates" is devoted to that idea, and includes 40 black raku fired plates, each with a different red bird. They symbolize the old pirates of the Brethren of the Coast, who were active in the 17th and 18th centuries on the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Foss' first solo show touches on a spiritual journey.

"I wanted to create a narrative of some sort," Foss says. "They (the drawings) concern a character, and it describes his mystical experiences as he proceeds through different levels of understanding."

Foss has been a comic book artist and freelance illustrator for about a decade.

"Comics is always what I wanted to do," Foss says. "My style is unusual for American tastes. ... I like precision and shadow, which are European qualities."

His new ink drawings explore gender identity and how people express their dual natures, among other concepts.

"Art is viscerally personal, but some of these were visions or flashes I've had," he says. "This spiritual examination is important to my life. An artist has to externalize the interior experience. That's part of an artist's job."


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