Beverly Fishman is a remarkably accomplished polymath.

Most artists pick one genre — painting, sculpture or glass blowing, say — and stick to it. Not Fishman, the Artist-in Residence for painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, whose current show, "Living Networks," is at Birmingham's Wasserman Projects until May 1.

"I have ideas, and the material chosen has to make sense with that," Fishman says. "I don't say, 'I'm going to work in glass. What will I do?' It's more that the material makes perfect sense with what I've already thought of."

Those who've followed her career will recall linear abstract paintings and disturbingly beautiful blown-glass pills and tablets for giants she created for one of her last Wasserman shows.

Now Fishman's turned her attention to collage.

Fishman, whose fascination with cellular biology has underpinned much of her career, says the muted, multi-layered collages in "Living Networks" were inspired by blown-up photos of individual cells under the microscope.

"I'm interested in the way that the natural system works," she says. "I'm thinking about the moving, ever-changing cells — this kind of organic, generative process."

Materials used to assemble these collages included archival paper, mylar, plastic paper, enamel and spray paint. Throughout, Fishman says, she was reaching for the translucent quality of human skin. Pieces often involve up to six different layers, with holes cut in different places — all of which gives these paper-thin works a surprising three-dimensionality.

"There are areas that are hand-cut, areas that are laser cut, and areas where I've drawn on the paper," she says. "It's a series of processes. There's enamel paint and spray paint. The papers have been airbrushed, silkscreened, and had stuff glued on them. There's a lot of stenciling — really, anything I need at the time."

Fishman's use of color here is subtle and restrained, with only a few examples where she really busts loose. These molecular collages call to mind what the primordial soup from which all life sprang millions of years ago might have looked like. You can almost feel the energy, just waiting to erupt into new, ever-more-complex lifeforms.

'Living Networks'

Through May 1

Wasserman Projects

2167 Cole, Birmingham

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; Saturdays by appointment

(248) 220-4628

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