By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
"Reflections from Within: Charlie Emmert" at West Valley Art Museum:If Emmert’s oil portraits of notable historical figures accurately reflect their personalities, then these guys were one miserable lot. In O’Keeffe Study, a thin veil of gray watercolor drips like tears over the artist’s heavily wrinkled and forlorn face. It seems almost tragic considering the colorful femininity of O’Keeffe’s floral studies. Einstein’s trademark frizzy white hair and walrus moustache can’t counteract the despair of eyes painted to mimic black holes. Though likely a nod to his Theory of Relativity, it’s disturbing to view. Emmert’s shadowy style is most successful in Indian with War Bonnet, an impressionistic view of a proud warrior in side profile. Textured paper and earthy shades of yellow, brown and ochre lend a raw, natural quality that visually describes the bond between Native Americans and their land. Admission is $7 adults; $2 students; children 5 and under free. Through May 6. 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts, Surprise, 623-972-0635, www.wvam.org.
"Synaesthesia" at Chiaroscuro Gallery:When viewed from a distance, New Mexico artist Marcia Myers’ large-scale frescoes appear to be a blatant rip-off of Rothko’s famous color blocks; especially in her Scaviseries. Where Myers breaks away from the ’60s color field movement is in the texture. By hand-layering linen strips painted with a mixture of plaster, lime, water and traditional pigments, her modern abstractions take on the rustic, weathered quality of an ancient Roman ruin. Check out Color Journey MMVI-III, a framed collage of fresco squares in shades of blue with streaks of rust and orange that add slight tension while remaining harmonious with the color scheme. With that kind of interior design sensibility, it’s no wonder her work has appeared in Architectural Digest. Admission is free. Through April 9. 7160 E. Main Street, Scottsdale, 480-429-0711, www.chiaroscuroaz.com.
"Tenacious" at Tempe Public Library’s Connections Café:At first glance, Barbara Burton’s quirky monoprints of bunnies and teacups seem well-suited to a coffee shop that’s a stone’s throw from dog-eared copies of Brer Rabbitand Winnie the Pooh. But there’s a darker subtext here. Check out Would You Still Love Me If I Had Two Ears, a block print of an anthropomorphic brown bunny with six floppy appendages, drooping eyes, and a bottle in hand. It’s not exactly kid’s play. In contrast, Christy Puetz’s beaded hats and wall hangings depict personal issues with whimsy and humor. Her obsession with meat products is captured in Hot Dog Canoe, a wearable felt cap bearing a beaded dolly of the artist riding in a felt bratwurst, while the round-bellied Whitney doll projects the ideal of woman as both mother and curvaceous goddess. Admission is free. Through April 4. 3500 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-350-5500, www.tempe.gov/library.
"Celebrating Freedom: The Art of Willie Birch" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art:New Orleans is colorful and quirky, like that eccentric relative who insists on wearing turquoise hats with leopard-print spandex. So it’s no shock that charcoal drawings that cast The Big Easy in shades of gray are a disappointment. Birch’s topographical shading technique causes his scenes of funeral parades and Haitian voodoo rituals to appear flat and lifeless. In Free to Be, four drag queens in towels, turbans, and jeweled necklaces share cocktails at the Southern Decadence gay-pride festival. Their presumably ruby-red lips and heavily shadowed eyes beg for color. Despite the aesthetic issues, Birch does have an eye for capturing the unseen realities of pre-Katrina New Orleans. In one poignant drawing, a homeless man sleeps beneath two symbols of slavery: a cannon and a magnolia tree. It’s a stirring reminder of the city’s dark past. Admission is $7, $5 for students. Through April 29. 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale, 480-994-2787, www.smoca.org.
"After Dark: 100 Years of the Evening Dress" at Phoenix Art Museum:Your old prom dress probably isn’t a masterpiece, but formal wear by Oscar de la Renta and Gianni Versace can be as desirable as a Rembrandt. Phoenix Art Museum’s exhibit of 30 gowns, selected from its cache of more than 6,000 dresses, illustrates how evening wear retains a timeless quality while subtly reflecting the social and political climate of an era. Halston’s 1973 tie-dyed silk gown with iridescent sequin embellishment embodies the free spirit, while a 1985 Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche red tuxedo gown emphasizes the power of the corporate woman. Don’t miss Norman Norell’s late-’60s coral jersey dress, a grotesquely tight mock-turtleneck gown crammed with bright pink sequins. It’s the collection’s best example of true couture fashion that’s meant to showcase the designer’s talent, not the wearer’s beauty. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, free to all on Tuesday evenings. Through April 1. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-257-1222, www.phoenixartmuseum.org.