Art Scene

"IN-CRIMI-NATION" at The Icehouse: If you think the Iraq War is our countrys low point, wait until you see The Icehouses latest sniper shot at America. Artist Mona Higuchis 12-foot-high woven paper reprint of a vintage photograph depicting Japanese girls stitching camouflage cargo nets at an internment camp is a poignant reminder of our past attempts at homeland security. The present is equally bleak, according to Susan Copelands whimsical Children, Population and Poverty. Plastic toys hung from the rafters of the Cathedral Room are color-coded by race, showing the disproportionate numbers of black children living in poverty. In one corner of ASU professor Richard Lermans stirring installation on nuclear waste, a childish diagram warns future generations against consuming fruits grown on a dump site. The image itself - - and the thought that posters like this could be necessary - - is unsettling. Admission is free. Through March 16. 429 W. Jackson St., Phoenix, 602-257-8929,

"Tenacious" at Tempe Public Librarys Connections Caf: At first glance, artist Barbara Burtons quirky monoprints of bunnies and teacups seem well-suited to a coffee shop thats just a stones throw from dog-eared copies of Brer Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh. But theres 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. Its not exactly kids play. In contrast, Christy Puetzs 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,

"Candice Eisenfeld: Scenes From the Oracle" at Larsen Gallery: The winding paths and mottled skies of Eisenfelds rich, wooded Victorian landscapes look like illustrations for Robert Frosts The Road Not Taken. The downside is that the scenery in each piece is so similar that casual viewers might overlook the interplay of textures and sheen in neighboring panels. For example, in Songs From the Oracle, uneven blocks of glossy red surround a muted ochre forest, lending a vibrant, modern feel to a landscape that might otherwise feel repressed. Dont miss Mount Parnassus, a visual triptych with a pearly-white, textured center panel that mimics the look of encaustic using only acrylic paint and clear varnish. Her ability to manipulate this mundane medium is truly extraordinary. Admission is free. Through March 15. 3705 N. Bishop Lane, Scottsdale, 480-941-0900,

"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 its no shock that charcoal drawings that cast The Big Easy in shades of gray are a disappointment. Birchs 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. Its a stirring reminder of the citys 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 isnt a masterpiece, but formal wear by Oscar de la Renta and Gianni Versace can be as desirable as a Rembrandt. Phoenix Art Museums 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. Dont miss Norman Norells late-60s coral jersey dress, a grotesquely tight mock-turtleneck gown crammed with bright pink sequins. Its the collections best example of true couture fashion thats meant to showcase the designers talent, not the wearers 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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