"LAIR" at Abernathy Arts Center; Kate Javens at Marcia Wood Gallery

Artists prize their independence, but it can get lonely working in the studio.

The Sixfold Collective, a group of metro Atlanta artists, is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too solution. Its members plan an annual exhibition for which they create their own work in response to an agreed-upon theme and come together to collaborate on a single piece.

The theme for “LAIR,” the collective's current exhibition at the Abernathy Arts Center, is the net. It's a resonant term, which connotes both connection, entrapment, safety and sustenance. Sixfold's members -- Terri Dilling, Amandine Drouet, Susan Ker-Seymer, Leisa Rich and Ann Rowles -- work with a wide variety of imagery, from home to handcuffs, and they exploit the net's visual possibilities as a pattern of positive and negative space in two dimensions and three.

The artists share a delight in color and a tactile sensibility. Yarn, fabric, string, thread and handmade paper are dominant materials, epitomized in “LAIR,” the group's show-stopping installation.

Using fibers that are knotted, crocheted, braided, stitched, entwined with plastic bags, along with shards of credit cards, tubes and rope, they have built an architectural space, a shelter you can walk through. Fabric toadstools -- fairy-tale seating -- fill out the cozy space. It's a frenzy of creativity fired by the energy of collaboration.

Through Dec. 31. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Fridays. (Closed Dec. 23 & 26.) Abernathy Arts Center, 254 Johnson Ferry Rd. NW, Sandy Springs. (404) 303-6172. ‎ www.fultonarts.org.

Of wolves and lambs

Deploying animals to symbolize human traits is a long-standing literary and artistic tradition. Kate Javens carries the tradition forward in her practice of honoring heroes, sung and unsung, with paintings of creatures she deems fitting.

The series featured in “For the Wolves, the Lambs and the Rev” at Marcia Wood Gallery are inspired by the late Rev. Linnette C. Williamson, whose ministry tended to the homeless, the substance abusers and the neglected people of Harlem, where Javens now lives.

The lambs suggest Williamson's flock and the pairing with wolves in the title alludes to the biblical vision of the peaceable kingdom. It's unclear why Javens chose to paint dogs, the wolf's domesticated incarnation, instead, but the works are so masterfully painted that it doesn't matter.

Essentially monochromatic, Javens' portraits of lambs and canines come to being through a laborious sequence of laying on and brushing off paint. Because of the delicacy and transparency of the surfaces, the texture of the of support -- canvas, muslin, panel -- and the way it takes paint change the effect.

So does scale. Most of the works are intimate, like religious icons. Their size calls attention to Javens' bravura brush strokes. In contrast, the 66-by-106-inch image of a pit bull, whose regal presence dominates the gallery, shows off a different kind of chops.

It also showcases the soulfulness with which Javens imbues these animals. This has always been so, but perhaps the feeling is heightened because neighborhood dogs were her models. (Not to distract from the solemnity that prevails, but we pet owners have always known that dogs are human.)

Through Dec. 10. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays; 1-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. 263 Walker St., Atlanta. 404-827-0030. www.marciawoodgallery.com

Catherine Fox is chief visual arts critic of www.ArtsCriticATL.com