8 Must-See Art Shows in Metro Phoenix This Spring

An artist who created a fictional queer family history. An artist best known for rendering soup cans. An artist who works with bits of screen and guitar strings. They're all part of spring exhibitions in metro Phoenix, which invite reflection on everything from the commodification of nature to the cult of celebrity. Here are eight art shows not to miss.

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"Chamber Music: A Mostly Silent Installation" Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum Now through April 26

A sophisticated yet whimsical marriage of light and line infuse the North Gallery at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, where Diane Gilbert's "Chamber Music: A Mostly Silent Installation" lures gallery goers along a curved path cradled by shapes created with conjoined guitar strings and small squares of painted screen. Ethereal sculptures hang suspended from the ceiling, casting intricate shadows on walls and floor. Several small pieces placed atop pillars near the gallery entrance demonstrate Gilbert's facility for using identical materials to create works with a far different feel. Find more information on the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum website.

"SouthwestNET: Postcommodity" Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art Now through April 26

It all seems idyllic enough as gallery goers view video projections of pastoral scenes filled with benign landscapes forming part of a 2011 work titled Promoting a More Just, Verdant and Harmonious Resolution -- which was created by the transdisciplinary American Indian arts collective Postcommodity (comprised of Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martinez, Kade L. Twist, and Nathan Young). But there's a catch. While exploring the installation, gallery goers trigger explosions of sound and vibration. Like a second Postcommodity installation at SMoCA, which is titled Pollination (2015), it's meant to question common national narratives and the commodification of nature, history, and culture. Find more information on the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art website.

"Unfixed: New Painting" ASU Art Museum Now through June 6

It's easy to ponder whether painting might become passé during the digital age, a time that affords us access to so many additional forms of visual expression and communication. Leonardo da Vinci might have loved having an iPad, but we're pretty sure he'd have continued using pencils and paintbrushes even if he'd had such modern digital tools back in the day. Still, it's a question worth exploring. This exhibition features attempts by artists Katherine Bernhardt, Hugh Scott Douglas, Jeff Elrod, Daniel Lefcourt. Eddie Peake, Avery Singer, Josh Smith, and Brad Troemel to unfix historical notions of what a painting should be. Their works, which range from abstractions inspired by street art and popular culture to computer-generated algorithms printed on canvas, blend traditional and new materials as well as processes -- fostering reflection about both the nature of painting and its relevance for contemporary culture. Find more information on the ASU Art Museum website.

"Andy Warhol: Portraits" Phoenix Art Museum Now through June 21

For most folks, American artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is that guy who painted all those Campbell's soup cans, or had that outrageous hair style that made the ever-mussed Albert Einstein seem perfectly coiffed by comparison. But there's much more to Warhol's work, which includes portraits of everyone from Hans Christian Andersen to Sylvester Stallone. More than 200 portraits drawn or painted by Warhol from the 1940s to the 1980s are featured in this exhibition, which was organized by The Andy Warhol Museum and culled from its own collection. Family photos and Polaroid pictures of the artist in drag are also included. We're keen on considering how Warhol's work informed the genesis of today's cult of celebrity and selfie-obsessed society. Find more information on the Phoenix Art Museum website.

"Through the Lens of Desire" Tilt Gallery Now through March 28

Continuing her "Cropped" series, artist Kris Sanford explores issues of identity, family and culture by using family photographs and those of anonymous strangers. Being young and queer in a family devoid of couples who mirrored her own intimate relationships, the artist set about imagining such couples and creating a fictional queer past starting with her grandmother's old family snapshots. She culled photos showing men together, and photos showing women together -- paying close attention to the ways their bodies stood apart or came together while imprinting her own longings and life experiences onto the subject pictured in these photos. Find more information on the Tilt Gallery website.

"Light Sensitive" Art Intersection Now through April 18

Long before phones starting doubling as cameras, there were handmade images created using traditional photographic print making processes like those featured in this exhibition: c-prints, platinum/palladium, cyanotype, gelatin silver, gum bichromate, and wet plate collodion tintype. We're intrigued by the prospect of seeing photographs that required more than pushing a simple button. Exhibition juror Robert Hirsch is an artist, author, and curator. His work has been exhibited in more than 200 shows, and his books cover topics including the history of handmade photography, a social history of photography, and digital photography. Find more information on the Shemer Art Center website.

"Lisa Sette Gallery: 30 Year Anniversary" Lisa Sette Gallery Now through March 28

We're eager to see how Sette's anniversary exhibition celebrates three decades of diverse works within just a brief two-week period. We're expecting something that delivers a powerful dose of nostalgia married with excitement about future potentialities within the heart of the metro Phoenix arts scene. Artists represented by Lisa Sette Gallery include James Turrell, best loved for his Skyspace installations, and William Wegman, renowned for his photographs and prints of Weimaraner dogs. Sette moved last year from her downtown Scottsdale gallery space to midtown Phoenix. Works we've enjoyed at Lisa Sette Gallery in recent years include Angela Ellsworth Seer Bonnets made with pearl corsage pins, a floor-length tunic by Vestido Semillas III made with bronze sunflower seeds, and Mayme Kratz works made with resin and natural materials such as grass. It'll be a treat to see what she assembles for this greatest hits take on life in gallery land. Find more information on the Lisa Sette Gallery website.

"Force of Nature" Shemer Art Center May 7 through June 18

The call for works is still open, but we're expecting good things for this exhibition -- which will likely include works by artists who use nature as their media, works featuring nature as the subject matter, and works that address ecological or environmental issues. Artists are encouraged to submit both indoor and outdoor works. The exhibition will be juried by Aimee Leon, who holds an MFA in Intermedia and MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Arizona State University. Leon's work incorporates natural materials (think wool and beeswax), expended industrial fare, and performativity. Her process includes traveling to isolated farm regions in different countries, where she explores textiles, natural food production, and non-traditional commodity systems. Find more information on the Shemer Art Center website.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble