Visual Arts

Art Scene

Alison Dunn at eye lounge: Viewers, on average, spend less than five seconds looking at any one painting in a museum or gallery. This statistic doesn't bode well for Alison Dunn, whose murky mixed-media paintings at first appear to be simple abstractions. A closer look reveals an underlying depth and complexity stemming from her knowledge of art history. Wallow, with its haphazard rose-colored border and scrawled letterform, recalls Victorian monograms, while Tide uses modern elements like seeds and pleather to update a Renaissance-style landscape. In Blue Boy #2, thick, impasto bows float atop a mottled brown background. Take a few steps back, and a faint image of Gainsborough's The Blue Boy appears from beneath the dark layers. It's a real mind job. Admission is free. Through Jan. 27. 419 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-430-1490,

"LARGE" at Larsen Gallery: Maybe size really does matter, at least where fine art is concerned. Larsen has gathered an eclectic selection of wall-size paintings, many created during well-known artists' earlier years. Check out the late Native American artist Fritz Scholder's Shaman at the Beach, a roughly sketched figure with the same shape and complexity as ancient cave drawings. The thick purple and green layers vibrate against each other on the canvas, a precursor of his later works that use multiple layers of opposing colors. Fans of Ed Mell may be disappointed by his Untitled Pillar, created in 1978. While his cubist influence is evident in the sharp angles of his red rock butte, Mell's earlier skies lacked the vibrant hues and swirling brushstrokes of his more recent landscapes. The impressive size of the piece — tall enough to require display under a cathedral ceiling — is its biggest selling point. Admission is free. Through Jan. 31. 3705 N. Bishop Lane, Scottsdale, 480-941-0900,

"Heavy Metal" at Tempe Public Library: Photographer and custom-car builder Johnny Medina captures families that embody the lowrider community, leaving the cars themselves as background. In The Next Step, a teenager in dark shades proudly displays his bicycle, complete with chromed, twisted metal handlebars. It cleverly demonstrates the metal fabrication skills that children of lowrider enthusiasts learn before they reach driving age — but, overall, Medina's work reads more like a family photo album than serious art. Joan Waters proves welding metal isn't just a man's game. Her steel sculptures of abstracted landscapes undulate with an organic, earthy feel that's distinctly feminine. Don't miss Hold the Starch, a steel shirt with rusty "buttons" crafted from washers on which Waters used an olive-colored patina to create visible wrinkles. Admission is free. Through Feb. 7. 3500 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-350-5500,

"Three Pulses" at Tilt Gallery: Mother Nature obviously exerted her influence on the three artists in this group exhibition. Painter Patricia Beatty repeats floral motifs, Christopher Colville photographs in the pristine wilderness, and mixed-media artist Rafael Navarro displays a keen understanding of feminine archetypes in his transformation of the curves of a guitar into mother's womb. Look for his Forbidden Fruit, a three-dimensional assemblage of Satan and Cupid beneath a barbed-wire apple that speaks to Eve's quandary. Colville has an uncanny knack for turning ordinary places into surreal landscapes. In his Dreams series, the woods behind an Icelandic campsite are illuminated by a mysterious blue glow. It might leave you questioning whether we're really alone in the universe. Admission is free. Through Jan. 27. 919 W. Fillmore St., Phoenix, 602-716-5667,

Dagne Hanson at West Valley Art Museum: It's difficult to reduce an artist's entire life down to a single room of works, but WVAM does an excellent job in illustrating local painter Dagne Hanson's personal and professional growth. Her efforts are traced from early charcoal nudes to more recent, emotionally charged works like her Suzie series, which depicts a wistful young woman with stringy red hair. Hanson's strength lies in her exceptional ability to capture the essence of a subject without depicting full detail. In Miserable Mother Series #2: None of Your Business, rapid brushstrokes and opposing hues of crimson and green provide a striking visual representation of a woman's wrath. This is one mama you don't want to trifle with. Admission is $7, $2 for students. Through Feb. 11. 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts, Surprise, 623-972-0635,

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden