Alison Bing, special to SF Gate
September, 2004

If ideas could be spliced as seamlessly as genes, the "Eureka!" moment might look a lot like Sharon Engelstein and Aaron Parazette's "Conversagence." Engelstein's space-age anthropomorphic ceramic sculptures have so much presence and peculiar charm that walking into the gallery feels like walking into an outer-space cocktail party in full swing. Her "Yellow Paws" is an appealing white bisque half-oval creature with two appendages, with extremities glazed a buttery yellow -- it's as though Engelstein has successfully crossed the DNA of the Pillsbury Dough Boy with a futurist Saarinen egg chair and one of Rex Ray's free-form fungus paintings. "Mini Innee Outee" appears to be a meeting of the minds and the belly buttons at the same time: two matte-white ceramic marshmallows dipped in silver get up close and personal here, as the "outee" tentatively probes the inner reaches of the "innee." There is a cheeky humor to this piece and to "Small Mouth Mask," a white sculpture with a pink stripe around it like a gag, with a mouth at the middle that seems to be piping up to say something in defiance of the apparent gag order. Here again Engelstein has invented a distinctive new hybrid entity that is meditative and chatty, elegant and slightly lumpy, alien and endearing. Keeping Engelstein's sculptures good company are Aaron Parazette's surfer-dude soliloquy paintings, with high-impact letters rising and tumbling across his canvases to form classic surfer slang like "stoked" and "insane." With high-impact letters that defy gravity and hit the upper limits of his canvas, Parazette has captured the lilting upswing of So-Cal surfer dudes raving about an "insane set." In "Velo," a term that refers to a hybrid kneeboard devised to take on big waves, Parazette has come up with a hybrid style all his own: Italian Futurist-style letters that stretch across the height of the painting like a Silly-Putty surfboard logo, only to crash to the bottom with an "o" and bounce back to the top with a backward "e." With their work, Parazette and Engelstein prove that at its best, art can be a lot like pure scientific inquiry: it invokes such wonder and adventure that conclusions somehow seem beside the point, and we don't want the experiment to end.