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Husband-and-wife artists Joe and Marlys Boddy were raised in Missoula and met in art school. It’s fitting they should have a sculpture exhibit together, even though it took a surprisingly long time.

“It’s really exciting,” Joe said. “This is the first time we’ve shown our art together.”

The two have spent years bringing works to a Loveland, Colorado, sculpture show, but have never done a joint exhibition, until now.

“Critters and Characters,” which opens July 5 on First Friday at 4 Ravens Gallery, marries the two artists’ most whimsical work.

“She does work that’s somewhat different than mine,” Joe said. “We just put together what we thought might look nice.

“We thought it would be interesting to show something more whimsical.”

The dozen or so sculptures include a row of ceramic faces by Marlys, and a collection of various animals by Joe.

As a former children’s book illustrator, Joe said the cute animals come easily to him, as do the fun, punny titles.

“Repeat Offender,” features a woodpecker, looking guiltily at the viewer after poking at a tree. “Fast Food” shows a duo, a cheetah and rabbit, both reared on their haunches to meet the viewer’s eye.

“Whimsical animals just come natural to me,” Joe said. The only difference is that, instead of working off of an author’s story, he comes up with his own.

Take a series of mouse sculptures that use a variety of antiques, like a drill bit, carpenter’s measure, or scale.

Joe found these objects and built the mice onto them, finishing them off with titles like “The Measure of a Mouse,” or “Really Bored.”

“Coming up with my own narrative is more fun.” Joe said.

These lighthearted animals can contrast with Marlys’ character studies, which are often highly realistic, detailed faces frozen in various emotions.

Her series that accompanies Joe’s work, however, tips toward that whimsical side of the scale, with sculptures like “Interlude,” depicting a woman with headphones on and eyes closed, focusing on her music, or an old-timey aviator with a determined look (“Barnstorming”).

The grayscale of Marlys’ head scultpures is just as eye-popping as Joe’s bright green turtles and red fish.

Marlys takes her character studies from people-watching, at county fairs and farmer’s markets, where she and Joe wander around and snap photos.

“Marlys is a people-observer,” Joe said. “A lot of them are fun and smiley.”

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Arts and entertainment

arts reporter for the Missoulian.