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What Lurks in the Basement ...

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If you're wondering where the "noise" in the Basement Gallery is coming from, it could be the constant sliding of chairs in the restaurant upstairs, or it could be one of the many whimsical creatures calling to you from illustrations by Bill Carman, Erin Cunningham, Jerms Lanningham, Erin Ruiz, John Warfel and Ben Wilson. "A Noise in the Basement" is a visual cacophony of strange and marvelous characters by some very talented local artists.

Bill Carman's mixed-media illustrations are the first to greet viewers when they enter the small gallery. The Boise State professor's work peers out from every wall of the main room, challenging visitors to look in all directions at once. The framed Tyrannosaurus Pug with his little useless arms and large squishy face hangs framed next to a fuzzy three-eyed bear, looking on with a glassy eye in his forehead. Carman's creatures are certainly odd, but undeniably fetching.

Around the corner, the figments of Erin Ruiz's imagination stare bleakly out from narrow wood panels. Dia De Los Muertos, parts one and two is a diptych from beyond the grave. A skeletal man in part one gazes listlessly at an equally decrepit woman in part two. Lined up beside this ghoulish couple are four other couples, all with the same expressionless gaze and equally as interesting. Ruiz's other works include Captain Ahab, who looks just like Honest Abe himself, paired with Marquise Marie, who resembles the lovely Marie Antoinette.

The second room is filled with Ben Wilson's work. Wilson's characters are lumpy but charming monsters, most with no distinction between head and neck, that possess either large, bulbous eyes or no eyes at all. Some have dinosaur-like features but are dressed in a formal suit and tie and leer bemusedly at viewers.

Wilson's work dominates the space, but tucked in a few corners is work by Erin Cunningham. One of her more stunning pieces is actually hung in the framing room. It's a shame it wasn't hung in a better-lit area because it is the only illustration in the show that uses three-dimensionality. In There Was No Time for Goodbyes, three characters—a man, woman and a man-in-the-moon­—are cutouts placed on a dark background, and the woman is being lifted away by the moon while the earthbound man reaches for her helplessly.

A small room just off the second gallery space is filled with works by Jerms Lanningham and John Warfel. Their brightly colored conceptual works are similar, but each artist has his own distinct voice. The two collaborated on a set of four "worm" paintings that depict brightly colored earthworms in various situations. The worms show up in several other paintings and illustrations by both Lanningham and Warfel, giving the room a definite theme.

Ardith Tate's stoneware and porcelain oddities are an interesting addition to the show. Her warrior pots are appropriately militant-looking in army green and brown, and her mad hatter series is lively and playful, bedecked with bright polka dots and coils of colored wire springing from the lids.

"Noise in the Basement" will be on exhibit through February. The gallery is open until 9 p.m. on First Thursday. Basement Gallery, 928 Main St. (downstairs), 208-333-0309. Open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m, and by appointment.