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Critic's Choice "Smile"!

 Critic's Choice Smile The art world has forbidden touching for so long that the idea of interactivity, however tainted by the icky proselytizers of techno-topia, can seem like a door opening from a cold, stifling box onto a golden playground. Aay Preston-Myint has merged his work in fiber and printmaking to create the installation Smile, a gleeful array of ornate masks and interchangeable backdrops that lets visitors enter elaborate fantasy vignettes. You can try on a crocheted green beard with teeth made of miniature arms harvested from soccer trophies, an “inside-out face” made of yarn and shellac, or a giant knitted headpiece reminiscent of McDonaldland’s psychedelic purple Grimace. The silk-screened fabric backdrops include one with missiles shooting through the night, another featuring eyes and hairy nipples, and one showing condos built on cute but suspicious brown clouds. Preston-Myint’s installation is a fully realized, approachable example of young Chicago artists’ fusion of fashion, craft, and participatory performance. Photographer Jennifer Brandel documented last Friday’s opening; the closing event will include a slide show of those images and a mask-making workshop. If you drop by before then, bring a friend and a camera. Through 1/19, Sat 1-5 PM and by appointment, closing event 6-10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597. —Bert Stabler