Keen eyes, steady hands, clever minds. Artists are at the top of their games in five Minneapolis gallery shows this month. With formats ranging from cut felt to etchings, abstractions and paint-embellished photographs, there's temptation for many tastes. Groveland Gallery

For its "Plus 1 Print Invitational," Groveland asked seven of its regular artists to invite a colleague to join them in showing new work. The concept is a smashing success with 40 works by 14 artists. No one picked a clone or copycat, and all the imagery is strong and the techniques masterful. High points include Kate Leonard's Whistlerian nocturnes of Finnish lakes, with shimmering blue and violet waters that gleam through etched friezes of trees and underbrush. In her four-panel "Sounds of Rain," Jean Gumpper of Colorado skillfully evokes the nighttime play of light and autumn leaves on a rain-rippled pond. Robert Dorlac's recent residency in Greenland produced a remarkable series of iceberg monotypes -- cool blocks of aqua dissolving into moody velvet miasmas of water and mist.

California artist Ellen Heck does a brilliant job of channeling the Impressionist-era talents of Mary Cassatt by applying her sharp observations to modern women caught in moments of reverie -- adjusting a shoe before a hallway mirror, gazing at art, typing on a laptop. Like Cassatt, Heck has an extraordinary ability to render nuances of posture and gesture -- the slump of a shoulder, cock of a head, stretch of a neck, twist of an arm. Her delicate, multilayered colors echo Cassatt's pale Japanese-style hues but in a thoroughly modern manner. The show is a perfect complement to the 2010 conference of the Mid America Print Council to be held Oct. 13-17 in the Twin Cities.

Through Oct. 16. Free. 25 Groveland Terrace, Mpls. 612-377-7800 or

Soo Visual Arts

This summer SooVAC moved from its old quarters into the adjacent space formerly occupied by Highpoint Center for Printmaking. With its improved lighting and sharper design, the smaller space proves a more effective showcase for the gallery's experimental art and installations. Two shows are up now.

In "Alternative Futures," Allen Brewer and Pamela Valfer consider the dissolution and mutation of nature and civilization as we know it. Valfer covered a wall with a paint-by-numbers drawing of a forest whose mutant inhabitants -- rendered in colored pencil sketches -- have the artificial bodies of stuffed animals attached to strangely distorted heads. Brewer's installation includes a monumental assemblage sculpture and a montage of landscape drawings and sketches of cultural flotsam -- TV personalities, a Bernini sculpture, a Michelangelo head. Together the installations offer an intriguing snapshot of a droll, post-apocalyptic world.

"Systematics," the accompanying show by Liz Miller and R. Justin Stewart, is a stylishly modern installation in which Miller concocts elaborate designs from felted paper and Stewart fashions biomorphic architecture -- shrimp-shaped tubes, eel tunnels -- from plastic zip-ties. Elegantly clever.

Through Oct. 31. Free. 2638 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. 612-871-2263 or

Bockley Gallery

Still wrestling with motherhood, Julie Buffalohead has retained her sense of humor and keen appreciation of cultural conflict. Her subjects are women, children, toys and such archetypal American Indian alter egos as wolves, owls, deer and ravens. Deftly painted on plain backgrounds, her characters enact storybook psychodramas in which, for example, a white-gowned "good fairy" surrounded by contemporary toys (Elmo, SpongeBob, Hello Kitty) confronts a black-caped wolf and his owl avatar with their crew of dump trucks, AT-AT Walkers and a cowboy Snoopy. She brings a tart sense of irony to scenes of children playing house, playing Indian and attending birthday parties. Every woman can relate to the loneliness and despair brought on by the personal sacrifices exacted by motherhood as she depicts it in "Melancholy Peek-a-Boo," in which a despondent wolf-woman mourns in a forest under watchful eyes of myriad critters.

Through Oct. 16. Free. 2123 W. 21st St., Mpls. 612-377-4669 or

Thomas Barry Fine Arts

Born in Estonia in 1940, Tiit Raid escaped to Germany with his family when the Russians invaded in 1944 and then emigrated to the United States after World War II. He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for 35 years and, since his retirement, paints the landscape of Fall Creek, a lush stream that meanders through a limestone ravine on his farmstead. His long, narrow paintings are built on color photographs onto which he lays flecks and streaks of color to accentuate natural features and light patterns. A keen observer of nature, he's picked out the lively lemon tones of summer, autumn's russet warmth, winter's chill blue shadows and the wet-lilac snows of spring.

Through Oct. 16. Free. 530 N. 3rd St., Mpls. 612-338-3656 or

Circa Gallery

Cuban-born and Seattle-based, Juan Alonso turns nature into abstraction in his new show, "Under Construction." In more than two dozen paintings, he uses ink and water in horizontal and vertical designs to suggest the bloom of rust on metal or frost on glass, the creeping blush of moss on rock, or water seeping through layers of sandy sediment. Serene and understated, his paintings hint at nature but may just as well be describing the geometry of parking ramps or the skeletons of buildings.

Through Oct. 23. Free. 210 N. 1st St., Mpls. 612-332-2386 or • 612-673-4431