Art Scene

Current exhibitions, installations, and shows

 "Reflections from Within: Charlie Emmert" at West Valley Art Museum: If Emmertís oil portraits of notable historical figures accurately reflect their personalities, then these guys were one miserable lot. In OíKeeffe Study, a thin veil of gray watercolor drips like tears over the artistís heavily wrinkled and forlorn face. It seems almost tragic considering the colorful femininity of OíKeeffeís floral studies. Einsteinís trademark frizzy white hair and walrus moustache canít counteract the despair of eyes painted to mimic black holes. Though likely a nod to his Theory of Relativity, itís disturbing to view. Emmertís 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,

"Synaesthesia" at Chiaroscuro Gallery: When viewed from a distance, New Mexico artist Marcia Myersí large-scale frescoes appear to be a blatant rip-off of Rothkoís famous color blocks; especially in her Scavi series. Where Myers breaks away from the í60s 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, itís no wonder her work has appeared in Architectural Digest. Admission is free. Through April 9. 7160 E. Main Street, Scottsdale, 480-429-0711,

"Tenacious" at Tempe Public Libraryís Connections Cafť: At first glance, Barbara Burtonís quirky monoprints of bunnies and teacups seem well-suited to a coffee shop thatís a stoneís throw from dog-eared copies of Brer Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh. But thereís 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. Itís not exactly kidís play. In contrast, Christy Puetzís 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,

"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 itís no shock that charcoal drawings that cast The Big Easy in shades of gray are a disappointment. Birchís 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. Itís a stirring reminder of the cityís dark past. Admission is $7, $5 for students. Through April 29. 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale, 480-994-2787,

"After Dark: 100 Years of the Evening Dress" at Phoenix Art Museum: Your old prom dress probably isnít a masterpiece, but formal wear by Oscar de la Renta and Gianni Versace can be as desirable as a Rembrandt. Phoenix Art Museumís 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. Halstonís 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. Donít miss Norman Norellís late-í60s coral jersey dress, a grotesquely tight mock-turtleneck gown crammed with bright pink sequins. Itís the collectionís best example of true couture fashion thatís meant to showcase the designerís talent, not the wearerís 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,

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