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November 25, 2013

Project 308 Gallery presents the art of the beer bottle label

NORTH TONAWANDA — If you accept the theories that art is everywhere and art is where you find it, then art is ready to be discovered in some unlikely places, like wine bottles, beer bottles — and Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.

Currently in transition at the Project 308 Gallery is a show of fanciful beer bottle labels created by artist Michelle Maggard, titled “Buffalo Bred and Brewed,” and one of wine bottle labels, “Thoughtful Fermentation,” by Kristy Carroll. These Buffalo State College students have taken over that small space in front of you, that brand-identifier on the bottle from which you’re pouring, and applied some art; watercolors in Carroll’s case.

Their work occupies that increasingly common spot where art meets advertising, with a nod to history and to the future. A century ago, Western New York had a thriving brewing industry and culture, with artistic ephemera — labels, coasters, saloon art — galore. That same part of the world is gearing up to be a player in the current century’s competitive wine industry.

An example is Carroll’s “Forbidden Seed” series, a row of empty bottles with striking cut fruit depicted on the labels, a tidy display of art graphic, fine and commercial in one easily appreciated location. The effect is reminiscent of the mid-century work of artist Donald Evans, whose work included tiny, hand-painted postage stamps for fictional countries.

“She defines the labels’ special interests,” Project 308 Gallery curator Natalie Brown said of Carroll.

Maggard’s labels were on display until Nov. 23. Carroll’s can be seen beginning today, for a week.

The gallery itself similarly offers something unusual yet familiar. It is a long and narrow storefront, formerly the secondhand store Ziggy’s Attic, on a relatively downtrodden section of Oliver Street. Near tattoo parlors, auto auction headquarters and corner convenience stores, and in a neighborhood once legendary for its working-class bar culture, an art gallery has been in place for more than a year.

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