Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz at Bentley Gallery: Think of snow globes and you're reminded of second-rate antique stores, Grandma's creepy attic, and tourist gift shops. But the works by Martin and Muñoz embrace this item's nostalgia and shed any cheesiness. Beautifully crafted snow globes rest on pedestals in the middle of the gallery. Inside are wintry white scenes of snow-covered hills and leafless trees. Tiny mutated creatures (like men in coats with a hog's head or humans with hooves for feet) wander the barren landscape. The domes evoke listlessness, dominated by a sense of isolation and entrapment. But the accompanying photographs take the edge off: large color prints of internal snow globe scenes. The creatures are still somewhat hideous and engage in relatively unpleasant activities; but without the physical barrier of the glass dome, they seem liberated. Suddenly, the landscape is ethereal and heavenly. These gorgeous pieces elevate snow globes from tchotchke to stunning escape. Admission free. Runs through March 29 at 4161 N. Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Call 480-946-6060 or visit www.bentleygallery.com.
"Lyle Ashton Harris: Blow Up" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: Harris, a photojournalist who achieved acclaim almost 20 years ago, showcases a body of work that spans his career. But this isn't a straightforward photo show with a series of sterile, framed prints. Nor is it a chronological display of an artist's work. The entire exhibition takes over two of SMoCA's galleries and is a mishmash of framed photos, printed images on flowing fabric, large-scale collages, and video installation. The combination may seem inconsistent and disorienting at first, but once it's understood that you've stepped into a collage of this man's career, common threads can be found. Mainly, Harris investigates persona, race, celebrity, sexuality, and gender. In one photo, a black man's face grimaces in anguish as his skin glimmers with trickles of blood while his beautiful body is clad in just a jock strap and boxing gloves. The familiar face of Michael Jackson dominates a collage filled with other recognizable everyday items. And Harris' most recent pieces explore the influence of traditional African art on Western pop culture. The show is a bombardment of frenzied visual over-stimulation, but with a slow, concentrated consideration of each bit, viewers have much to gain from Harris' visual insights. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students, free for children. Through May 27 at 7374 E. Second St. in Scottsdale. Call 480-874-4666 or visit www.smoca.org.
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Jessica Calderwood's "Sensual Surfaces" at Mesa Contemporary Arts: If you've ever stumbled across another person's diary, you've been faced with an insatiable temptation to dive in and get an eyeful of their secrets. Even if you managed to walk away (if so, bravo to you), it's easy to understand that longing to take a peek at privacy. An artist's sketchbook is often just as revealing as any diary, and artist Jessica Calderwood has bared her visual soul for all to see. She uses the drawings from her sketchbook in a series of enamel works (glass on metal) that reveal her concentrations on sensuality, consumption, and femininity. One wall in the gallery is covered with egg-sized convex plaques, each decorated with a tiny drawing. There's a mouth biting a lower lip, an eyelash curler, a woman blowing a gum bubble, a corset, and a uterus. The larger platters show drawings of women, their seductively open mouths belching flowers and bouquets that weave into the air. Another shows a woman's face, marked up like a body on Nip/Tuck. The show is provocative in both its imagery and the revealing nature of Calderwood's sketches — a conglomeration of ideas in their infancy that, when displayed all at once, show a mature conception of feminine sensuality. Admission is $3.50 for adults and free for children ages 7 and under. Through April 6. 1 E. Main St. in Mesa. Call 480-644-6501 or visit http://mesaartscenter.com.
"Sensual Surfaces"|"Lyle Ashton Harris: Blow Up"|Paloma Muoz|Walter Martin|"On the Ball"
"On the Ball" at Sky Harbor Airport Terminal 4, Level 3 Gallery: With millions of travelers passing through Sky Harbor every year, the art displays must approach crowd-pleasing topics. And what's more crowd-pleasing than American sports? There are two artists that really outshine the rest. Keith Stanton has a pretty rad photography trick in which he sets up a scene in miniature and shoots with a macro lens to create the illusion of true-to-life scale. The photos are convincing at first glance, but because of their bright colors and miniature-model quality, they have a surrealistic edge. The other artist worth your time is Denise Currier, who basically paints with fabric. It's safe to assume that this woman has made some kickass quilts in her time, as evidenced by the stellar construction of pieced fabrics and with gorgeous decorative stitching. She creates beautiful plush scenes of golf courses. Jeff Falk's small gold statue of a child with a baseball mitt and cap was too over the top. It's an obvious attempt to update the cherub statues seen in cathedrals but the only thing Falk's piece looks like is a creepy doll, spray-painted by a sadistic kid. Admission is free. The show runs through March 30 at 3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Call 602-273-2105 or visit phoenix.gov/skyharborairport.