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A new exhibition of ceramic sculpture by Jessica Widmer opens with a reception at 6 p.m. Friday in 464 Gallery (464 Amherst St.). The show, called “Beast in the Heart,” features a series of animal figures with human characteristics or expressions, from a rabbit draped in fur and glowering at the viewer to a wolf-human hybrid dangling a strange orange object from its fingers.

This is the debut exhibition for Widmer, a SUNY Buffalo State student whose work – like that of local sculptor Bethany Krull – exploits and explores human relationships to animals. For her, the animal is a symbol that comes preloaded with associations, but it’s also malleable enough to tell many kinds of stories.

“We are all animalistic to begin with, and combining their characteristics with humans furthers the emotive qualities I want to get across,” Widmer wrote in a statement. “Animals also carry with them an automatic association with folk tales and mythologies, and I can feel free to extend that archetype, or counteract it as it suits the idea.”

Widmer also makes functional pieces like bowls, cups and plates, “making those who choose to touch and interact with these pieces a part of the narrative, a part of the identity being forged through use and attraction to the object.”

The show runs through Wednesday. Call 983-2112 or visit www.464Gallery.com.

– Colin Dabkowski