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5 Cool Things We Saw at December's First Friday

December's First Friday was filled with opportunities to shop art for the holidays and openings for new exhibitions -- but also included one- and two-day events offering a fun assortment of creative works. Here's a roundup of our favorite finds.

The Fates by Lauren Lee

Most folks know Lauren Lee's work thanks to her mural depicting a trio of bright birds on an exterior wall of GreenHaus along Roosevelt Row. But we were pleased to see Lee's work beyond the bird motif during December's First Friday, which included the opening reception for Lee's solo exhibition "Dream" at {9} The Gallery. Fans of the bird theme will embrace her bird totems -- tall works of wood depicting a bevy of birds stacked one on top of the other. But "Dream" also includes Lee's ethereal landscapes and whimsical (with a hint of wicked) portraits of women included the trio of "fates" that feel like a modern day take on Shakespeare's three witches for Macbeth. Gallery goers were especially smitten with Lee's transformation of the gallery space with simple glass vases, hand-painted in colors from her landscapes and filled with dried flowers.

See also: 25 Best Holiday Events in Metro Phoenix

Untitled works by Alexandra Bowers

It's fitting that wood works by Alexandra Bowers are featured in the solo exhibition "Before Dawn" at Practical Art this month, given their swell selection of pieces by Arizona artisans who work with wood. We were especially drawn to a grouping of untitled 5-by-5-inch square pieces that echo the lovely range of desert flora and fauna you're likely to encounter when beating the sun out of bed for some hiking time or other encounter with nature. The exhibition also includes a trio of bats, which we're far fonder of seeing in gallery spaces than actual outdoor places. The exhibition's opening reception takes place next Friday, December 12, from 7 to 9 p.m.

7 Deadly Sins by Randy Slack

Slack's pink mash-up of Audrey Hepburn and Chanel logo lured us into storefront spaces connecting a pair of buildings in the Luhrs City Center, but once inside we discovered Slack pieces with a decidedly edgier feel. Think babe suckling the breast of a Madonna and little girl shoving a finger up her nose. But we were most intrigued by Slack's 2009 acrylic and enamel work titled 7 Deadly Sins, which is a fun twist on Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper complete with corporate icons. We also loved seeing Ed hung inside a small elevator-size space flanked by walls that conjure images of elevator doors.

Mid-Century Angle by Douglas Towne

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Despite being delightfully distracted by the umbrella table cover salvaged from a former Grand Avenue motor hotel and suspended upside down from the rafters at Frontal Lobe Community Space & Gallery, we managed to take the full "tour" of Grand Avenue's history curated by Douglas Towne. Towne has a thing for making floating montages filled with vintage roadside imagery, and his own Mid-Century Angle was one of many cool finds during Friday's opening reception for "The Lone Diagonal in a Grid Town: What's Grand About Grand Avenue." Others included several sets of then and now images depicting familiar sites along the street that goes against the grid: Desert Sun Motor Hotel/Proposed multiuse project including a Mexican restaurant, Dick's Place/Trunk Space, First National Bank of Arizona/Ministerios Roca de Salvacion, and more.

Reaching by Nick Rascona

We've got a long list of cool things spotted at the "Art-O-Sphere" exhibition at the Icehouse, where sculpture students at ASU's School of Art presented diverse works in neon, metal, wood, and other materials -- accompanied by performance art including drummers and fire dancers. Few folks made their way upstairs to some of the exhibition's most fascinating fare: room installations featuring vintage lit, art, photos and such. Our favorites included Nick Rascona's brass Reaching. Also Phil Schmidt's mixed media Borders, a curved panel comprised of vertical unfinished wood slats with arms jutting out of opposite sides.

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