At the Akron Art Museum:
A Stranger in Paradise
In 1976, at age 60, Reverend Howard Finster saw the perfect human face in a drop of paint on his finger, and he heard a voice commanding him to paint sacred art. Half a century later, the late Finster (d. 2001) is one of America's most recognizable outsider artists: Among other achievements, he created award-winning cover art for albums by the Talking Heads and R.E.M. Now, the Akron Art Museum appreciates him as a painter in his own right with the exhibition Stranger in Paradise. Like a William Blake of the pop-art era, Finster's oeuvre juxtaposes religiously laden illustrations arising from his vivid visionary experiences with more worldly subjects. Bearded messiahs and contemporary faces grin with innocence, warmth, and cake-batter softness — all while framed within dense biblical quotations and religious pronouncements. Angels fly side-by-side with rockets, and the King of Memphis makes an appearance beside the King of Kings. In Finster, we see someone striving toward holiness while keeping hold of his humanity. The result is pure pleasure. The show opens February 25 and continues through June 3 at 1 South High St. in Akron. An opening reception is set for 6 to 9 p.m. on March 2. Call 330-376-9185 or go to akronartmuseum.org. — Joseph Clark
1point618 Gallery: The Ghost of Ted K, or The Unforgettable Fire. After the death of a loved one, Amber Kempthorn was moved to paint a series of fantastical scenes that use water and fire to symbolize mourning's melancholy and the levity of remembrance. An opening reception will be held February 24 from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibition runs through March 26 at 6421 Detroit Ave. Call 216-281-1618 or go to 1point618gallery.com.
Arts Collinwood: Sanity Check. George Kocar uses his colorful paintings to comment on a crazy world, filled with instant celebrities and political strife. A gallery talk with artist Douglas Max Utter happens Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. Through March 3 at 15605 Waterloo Rd. Call 216-692-9500 or go to artscollinwood.org.
Augusto Fine Arts Gallery: Cuba on Paper: Limited Editions by Contemporary Cuban Master Artists. This exhibit introduces Cleveland to the works of Cuba's premier printmakers. The show continues through April 20 at 1305 West 80th St. Learn more at 216-548-9798.
Breakneck Gallery: Valentines? ... Schmalentines. Bitter singles and jaded duos are invited to gripe in style with this exhibition of cynical reflections on Valentine's Day. Through March 3 at 17020 Madison Ave. in Lakewood. Call 216-767-5610 or go to breakneckgallery.com.
Cleveland Artists Foundation: Paradise Lost. Painter August F. Biehle Jr. captured the pastoral grace of Zoar and the enthusiasm of the Modernist movement. The works in this exhibition are drawn from 25 years of his career and show his growing familiarity with both his subject and the genre. The show continues through March 10 at the Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood. Call 216-227-9507 or go to clevelandartists.org.
Cleveland Museum of Art: Rembrandt in America. The largest collection of authentic Rembrandts exhibited in America in 100 years is now on display at the CMA. The collection presents a comprehensive history of the painter's reception and interpretation in the States, and illuminates how collectors' desire to own a Rembrandt fueled research into his work. The exhibition continues through May 28 at 11150 East Blvd. Tix are $7 to $14. Call 216-421-7350 or go to clevelandart.org.
Fairmount Center for the Arts: Rhythm of Stillness. Internationally known and Cleveland-trained artist Stanka Kordic creates works that synthesize realism with abstraction, merging what we clearly recognize with ethereal touchstones. The exhibition continues through March 31 at 8400 Fairmount Rd., Novelty. Call 440-338-3171 or visit fairmountcenter.org.
Kenneth Paul Lesko Gallery: Cleveland School 2012. Works by William Sommer, Frank Wilcox, and other practitioners of the Cleveland School are on display through April 7 at 1305 West 80th St. Call 216-631-6719 or go to kennethpaullesko.com for more info.
Kokoon Arts Gallery: Nature Revealed. This exhibition features an intriguing mix of historic and contemporary depictions of natural environments and the wild creatures that inhabit them. Through April 28 at 1305 West 80th St. Call 216-832-8212 or visit kokoonarts.com.
Kollective Gallery: Nerd Works. Housed in the vacant storefront next door to Kollective Gallery is an exhibition of recent sculptural works by artist Dana L. Depew. Produced from reclaimed signage and video installations, the pieces are based on that life-changing movie, Revenge of the Nerds. Through March 30 at 1904 South Taylor Rd., Cleveland Hts. Call 216-862-0799 or visit kollectivegallery.com.
Mezzanine Gallery: Winged Camel Metalworks. Husband-and-wife jewelry and decorative-arts makers Malcolm and MaryAnn Owen present recent works in metal, many of them one of a kind, and the "library series" of tiny figures in silver perched on custom clocks. Through Feb. 28 at 2026 Murray Hill Rd. Call 216-721-4992 or find them on Facebook.
MOCA: Sculpture. Nationally recognized artist Ursula von Rydingsvard exhibits monumental-scale wooden sculptures emulating organic forms. Also: 8501 to 11400 [On Moving]. MOCA concludes its final season at its current home with an exhibition of new works and interactive projects from Brandon Juhasz, Ben Kinsley, and Corrie Slawson. Through March 31 at 8501 Carnegie Ave.; call 216-421-8671 or go to mocacleveland.org.
Mastroianni Arts: Sacred Pulp: Two Dead Smiths + Two Live Smiths. Steven B. Smith, Tremont's assemblage artist, poet, and "fotographer," shares his family's evocative and provocative multimedia collages. Smith and his wife, artist Lady K, host a poetry reading March 3 from 2 to 4 p.m. Through March 31 at 2688 West 14th St. Call 216-235-6936 or go to mastroianniarts.com.
O Gallery: The Paintings of Yarek Godfrey. Using women as his primary subjects, Paris-based Godfrey captures curvilinear beauty and raw humanity on his paint-laden canvases. Meet the artist during a Feb. 23 reception from 6 to 9 p.m. The show continues through April 20 at 2101 Richmond Rd., Beachwood. Call 330-921-1234 or visit theogallery.net.
Reinberger Galleries at Cleveland Institute of Art: 66th Annual Student Independent Exhibition. Organized and curated by students, this exhibition features student artworks that have been juried by a trio of nationally recognized artists. Through March 17 at 11141 East Blvd. Call 216-421-7407 or visit cia.edu.
River Gallery: New Photography. Jessica Malone's image transfers combine evocative gestures with eerie tableaus. Mark Inglis catalogs urban glass architecture. Chad Gordon and Dan Morgan offer visions of winter. Through March 24 at 19046 Old Detroit Rd., Rocky River. Call 440-331-8406 or go to rivergalleryarts.com.
Spaces: Speculative Models. Baltimore artist Marty Weishaar fills the gallery with bridges, airplanes, and toy car tracks to create a microcosm of crumbling infrastructure. Also: Cuyahoga Fugues Revisited. Nine years after her first Spaces residency, Guggenheim Fellow Margaret Cogswell returns to create a series of drawings and a mixed-media installation inspired by her time with the Cuyahoga. Also: It's All Yours: Posture Pointers to Make You Prettier. Printmaker and artist-in-residence Christi Birchfield builds an installation that meditates on the relationship between the ephemeral and the making of art. Through March 30 at 2220 Superior Viaduct. Call 216-621-2314 or visit spacesgallery.org.
The Sculpture Center: Familiar Machines. Lauren Yeager and Scott Stibich recombine mundane household devices into fantastic but functional machines. Also: Linda Ding: Still Life. The CIA grad uses sculpture and installation to reveal the behavior of interior spaces. Through Feb. 25 at 1834 East 123rd St. Call 216-229-6527 or go to sculpturecenter.org for more information.
Tregoning & Company: Evolution. James Massena March's paintings explore spatial relationships and color. Also: Raw Materials. Photographer Allen Lowry reorients our perception of construction sites by shooting them from extreme and dizzying angles. Through February 28 at 1300 W. 78th St. Call 216-281-8626 or go to tregoningandco.com.
William Busta Gallery: From Inside My Outer Space. Julie Weitz weaves together abstract painting and photographs of unclothed torsos to assert the body's materiality. Through March 18. Also: I'll Be Your Mirror. Christi Birchfield experiments with tools and techniques to achieve abstraction and moments of self-awareness. Meet the artist February 25 from 2 to 4 p.m. Through March 18 at 2731 Prospect Ave. Call 216-298-9071 or go to williambustagallery.com to learn more.
Zygote Press: Fellow Travelers: Works of J. Noel Reifel and his Students. Reifel has taught printmaking at Kent State's School of Art since 1976. This exhibit presents his work as both a teacher and a printmaker, by way of works by former students and his own current prints. An opening reception happens Feb. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibit continues through March 30 at 1410 East 30th St. Call 216-621-2900 or go to zygotepress.com.
Galeria Quetzal: Land of Color: Latin American Textiles. Presented in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art's Textile Arts Alliance, this exhibition showcases the fiber arts of 16 countries alongside those of local artists working in the styles of Latin America. Through March 16 at 12400 Mayfield Road. Call 216-421-8223 or go to galeriaquetzal.com.
The Holden Arboretum: Pollination: Up-Close. Erie, PA-based photographer Dave Heberle takes close-ups of local flowers and insects with the hope of inspiring suburbanites to see the natural world anew. The exhibition runs through March 9 at 9500 Sperry Rd., Kirtland. For more information, call 440-946-4400 or go to holdenarb.org.
Wasmer Gallery at Ursuline College: A Journey of Education and Empowerment. Ursuline College and H.E.L.P. Malawi recreate an African open-air marketplace to present photographs, paintings, and authentic fiber art from that African nation. Through March 30 at 2550 Lander Road, Pepper Pike. Call 440-449-4200 or go to ursuline.edu.
Willoughby Hills Community Center Art Gallery: To Abstraction. Well-known Cleveland photographer Michael F. Nekic is joined by mixed-media artist Martha L. Germano in a show that aims to shine a fresh light upon the faces of abstraction. Through Feb. 27 at 35400 Chardon Rd., Willoughby Hills; call 440-918-8730 or visit willoughbyhillsgallery.org.
Solon Center for the Arts: Ryn Clarke Photography Exhibition. A sequence of woodland photographs taken over a year tells the story of the creative destruction of the seasons. The show runs through March 2 at 6315 SOM Center Road. For more information, call 440-337-1400 or go to solonohio.org/index.aspx?nid=257.
Seiberling Gallery: Life on the Towpath. The Cuyahoga Valley Photographic Society embarked on a one-year project to document life on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Capturing the resource in all its natural glory, the resulting exhibition is on display through Feb. 25 at 1403 West Hines Hill Rd. in Peninsula. Call 330-657-2909 or visit cvnpa.org for more information.