Rhonda’s friends from high school in Arizona visited New York from LA and Philadelphia in early August. We talked up the Museum of Arts and Design and the High Line as must-see sites and met them at the Museum and had a terrific time. We were all Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities (through September 18, 2011), which features artists constructing small-scale hand-built depictions of artificial environments and alternative realities, either as sculpture or as subjects for photography and video. These are worlds of “magic realism” conceived and realized through intense engagement with materials, attention to detail, and concern for meaningful content.

Dorothy Gill Barnes UNTITLED 1995

Gyöngy Laky Red Birds

Mary Merkel-Hess Tall Grass

Tom & Connie McColley Along the Path

There were also some remarkable pieces in A Bit of Clay on the Skin: New Ceramic Jewelry (through September 4, 2011). Flora and Fauna, MAD about Nature (through November 6, 2011), however, was less successful. There were individual works that we liked, including Steffen Dam’s Marine Forms, Wayne Higby’s Mesa Gap and Beth Katelman’s Folly and the works pictured here (two of which were sold to collectors by browngrotta arts, and the Gyöngy Laky work that lead us to contact her about representation back in the 90s). But by mixing works featuring motifs from Nature, like fish and flowers and butterflies, with works made of branches and bark and other natural materials, the curator has created a bit of a mashup — two exhibitions with very different sensibilities installed as one.  Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019, 212-299-7777, http://www.madmuseum.org/see.