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Monsterladyland Jen Fridy's ladies may look comely at a distance, but up close, they sprout fangs, claws and glowing red eyes. Fridy's work bespeaks feminist notions of empowerment, even dominance, but they're pushed slightly over the boundary between an assertion of strength and an indulgence in danger. Fridy's real intent, though, is obviously to have fun. She renders her mixed-media monster-woman paintings with storybook appeal and a blackly comic sensibility. Fridy also offers up visual allegory with panache and an off-handed indirection that softens the underlying message: "Souvenir of Sour Grapes" depicts a two-headed octopoid (female) holding glass blower's blowpipes and producing orbs embossed with the phrase "Never Thine." Like a small gem in a perfect setting, the work is hung in the oak-paneled exhibit space at Mercy Seat Tattoo, an environment, with its book-lined shelves and Victorian accoutrements, reflective of the same timelessness as Fridy's paintings. Through Nov. 30 at Mercy Seat, 210 E. 16th St., 816-421-4833. (Chris Packham)

Printed Matter Julia Stroud's prints are bold and articulate, cleanly executed and as charming and safe as a precocious kid. Stroud deftly balances form and negative space, and she knows how to get the best results from a variety of printing techniques. The monoprint "Untitled — Birds" is layered with forms in primary blue, red and yellow on pristine white paper; by contrast, she builds up her ambiguous composition "Self Portrait" — an arrangement of shadowy forms and lace — with tones that manage a greater degree of earthiness. Two works, "Yves" and "Red Right Ankle" — the latter a composition of hearts (anatomical ones) — are printed on delicately darned swatches of fabric. The exhibit includes two books. One is a storybook about a lunch invitation, sparsely written and minimally illustrated, which showcases Stroud's aesthetic relationship with negative space. The other is "Placeholders," a small, accordion-style book printed with photos of tiny objects — lockets, miniatures, small toys — accompanied by Stroud's illustrative haiku. It's a beautiful object that captures the essence of this exhibit as a whole: accomplished, tasteful, cozy as a Wes Anderson flick. Through Nov. 5 at J. Bird Studios, 516 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan., 913-207-1971. (Chris Packham)

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