This month’s First Friday brings us the nostalgic themes of war and paper mâché and a renewed appreciation for the traditional mediums of ceramics and oil painting.

Muse Gallery

52 North 2nd St.

Nothing screams “elementary school art class” louder than paper mâché, which is why Drew Zimmerman’s unique medium embodies the autobiographical nature of his work. “Do I Amuse You?” Zimmerman’s first solo show at the Muse Gallery, tells a story in twenty relief–collage portraits, sculptures, masks and Japanese Bunraku–style puppets. Though Zimmerman’s technique has matured since he was building marionettes as a street performer in the early 80s, his quirky set of materials has not changed in 30 years.

Highlights of the show range from relief portraits of 1920s icons Harry Houdini, Pablo Picasso, Franz Kafka and Buster Keaton to a nine–and–a–half foot long whirligig (whatever that is). In Zimmerman’s portraits, varied layers of cardboard lift details off a wood mounting board, creating depth and subtly bringing attention to certain features — a nose, a soda can, a pupil.

Nowhere, however, is Zimmerman’s meticulousness as evident as in his mask and puppet works. Exaggerated wrinkles and sculpted limbs bring the displayed figures to life and give “Do I Amuse You?” intense character. Zimmerman doesn’t use a brush, but rather breathes color into his work with old newspaper advertisements and inks or with acrylic wash applied to newsprint stock. Ripped or cut into slender rectangles, the paper is placed thoughtfully with great respect to light. Whether it’s out of interest, nostalgic longing or simple curiosity, make sure to stop by the Muse this First Friday — and leave with a refreshed respect for that pulpy, fourth grade goop.

—Ellie Levitt

Snyderman Gallery

303 Cherry St.

In this one-man-show, entitled “Classifal, Functional Ceramics,” internationally acclaimed artist and artisan John Glick serves up ceramic plates worthy of the place–mats of the Gods. According to Glick himself, as he paints he is “reacting to the invitation of the unadorned surface” of his pots, creating delicate, swirly, pearlescent designs reminiscent of the insides of seashells.

Though most of Glick’s work is functional, some is more conceptual, drawing forms and colors from natural landscapes, architecture and trees. His current works deal with the more personal theme of memory. The use of collage for adornment allows the artist to bring together elements as varied as leaves and mantles to create his resonant compositions. This exhibit brings light to the timeless, albeit under–appreciated, art of pottery, reminding us that plates haven’t always come on sale from Ikea.

—Inna Kofman

Locks Gallery

600 Washington Square South

Jane Irish, program coordinator of the Master of Fine Arts program here at Penn, will exhibit at Locks Gallery for the third time this Friday. Presenting a collection of ink washes, paintings and ceramic works titled The Home Front: Jane Irish’s Art of War, the artist integrates the poetry of a Vietnamese war veteran with decorative vases and detailed paintings of Rococo–inspired interiors.

The exhibit illustrates the physical and emotional transformations of Vietnam as a result of the Vietnam War, emphasizing its anti–war legacy in a particularly unique manner. Irish’s towering paintings, some reaching eight feet in height, depict visions of a now lost wealthy minority, the enviable lavishness richly painted in a style that Renoir would most certainly approve of.

On the other hand, the artist’s ceramic works create an interesting tension between images of war protestors and the fragility of the medium itself, an idea that separates the work from the excessive bloodiness of traditional anti–war imagery. In addition to what promises to be an exceptional show, Irish will treat visitors with a free illustrated catalog (we love free!).

—Megan Ruben

Artists’ House Gallery

57 North 2nd St.

If you just have time to go to one gallery and you’re looking for a little bit of everything, The Artists’ House is the place to go. From the slightly surreal, ocean inspired works of Joseph Lozano to Joan Bromley’s tranquil landscapes, this space holds works to satisfy every aesthetic sensibility. Most of the artists are from Philly and its suburbs; the influence of the city permeates through each canvas.

The exhibit opens this Friday and meets the Artists’ House mission of featuring “the work of outstanding emerging artists.” Susan Odessey uses watercolors and swift strokes of a brush to capture the beauty and feel of gorgeous landscapes from Alaska to Ireland. David Graeme Baker brings realism to the exhibit with the muted pallet of his oil paintings, which succeed at capturing not “the event” itself, but the tranquil moment that follows.

Mother Nature makes her appearance in Jerri Ross’s captivating floral watercolors and calm, pastel depictions of marshes. Ross’s work fits perfectly beside Ben Johnson’s series on birds. The contrast of these with Scott Jackson’s vibrant, urban scenes makes for a stimulating visual atmosphere. The Artists’ House is more than a gallery; it is a welcoming home for artists of all mediums and styles and visitors are treated with great hospitality.

—Isabel Oliveres