by Geoff Gehman

Jason Travers is one sneaky painter. On his Web site he calls himself a folklorist who creates ''new legends yet to be told.'' He defines characters as not just vaguely recognizable people, but ''structural forms and stray marks.'' His oils on paper and wood are ''narrative passages'' in which he participates, mediates and spectates.
There are many intriguing quasi-stories in Travers' exhibit at the Baum School of Art, one of four area institutions where he teaches. The Bethlehem resident's foundation is a kind of waterfall of rocks stained with olives, rusts and other low-fire intensities. He enlivens this template with taffy-stretched skies, watercolor shading and several types of movement.
Each Travers work is a jigsaw puzzle. ''The Promise'' is a diagonal view of what could be a mountain top or a rocky shore embraced by misty sky or bleached water. All of his pictures are quickly atmospheric. Featuring a rainbow wave crashing into a spinning sun, ''Forlorn'' has the airy sweetness of cotton candy.
Travers balances tension with tranquility consistently and neatly. This skill fails him in ''Juggernaut,'' an oil-on-paper of what resembles a big underwater shell propped up by sticks. The colors are relatively stable; the patterns are fairly uniform. Two of his three oils on wood are overly dry and chalky. The exception is ''Sojourn,'' a gripping horizontal of a figure racing through a nightmarish forest. It's definitely a fairy tale in flight.
Oil paintings by Jason Travers, through Aug. 14, Baum School of Art, 510 Linden St., Allentown. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. 610-433-0032, www.baumschool.org, www.jtravers.com.