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| Art |

The Best Things We Saw at February's First Friday

Two directors enjoying opening night.EXPAND
Two directors enjoying opening night.
Matty Steinkamp

The buzz over movie awards season and the Democratic debates attempted to dominate February's First Friday, but creatives were shifting the evening's conversation with their own art and events, including the second year of Indie Film Fest and the 10th-anniversary performance of RPM Orchestra. Here's what we're going to be talking about for the next month.

Indie Film Fest at FilmBar

Film buffs gathered at FilmBar Friday night for the opening of the Indie Film Fest, where short films explored a wide range of topics rarely seen on the big screen. One addressed suicide in geographically isolated indigenous communities, and another tackled sexuality during pregnancy. One filmmaker imagined bullets erupting from human hands, then turned to a pair of children who learned they could shoot other objects such as chicken nuggets. A feature-length film explored the history of ska music, told primarily by musicians who’ve made it.

The festival closed out the night by screening music videos at Paz Cantina. But the highlight of the night happened in between, as four short film directors took questions from festival founder Matty Steinkamp. In some circles, Oscar buzz dominated the weekend. But opening night for the Indie Film Fest in Roosevelt Row trained its focus on emerging filmmakers, reminding viewers of the rich diversity of stories being shown beyond the big screen. Lynn Trimble

Lisa Marcelle Nowitz’s 'retro(per)spective' at Sisao Gallery

"retro(per)spective" is Lisa Marcelle Nowitz’s first exhibition since she earned her photography degree from ASU in 1998. She embarked on a career in IT, but she never stopped taking photos. Many of this show’s images were captured on excursions into the wilderness during business trips.

She was trained to shoot on film in black and white, but her dad gifted her a digital camera a decade ago, which has allowed her to capture nature with a superhuman, zoomed-in style that is at once otherworldly, slightly academic, and aesthetically pleasing.

The photo’s subjects are from across the continent, but — aside from a few wider landscape shots — you wouldn’t know it by looking at them. When Nowitz turns her 100 mm lens on the foliage that serves as her inspiration, the end product is the magnification of a familiar sight, forcing the viewer to look closer and reconsider preconceptions. A dying leaf is an endlessly complex mosaic of blackish-purple and strangely reflective white.

The exhibition will be open again on Third Friday, from 6 to 10 p.m. Anthony Wallace

Arizona Artists Guild at First Studio

First Studio displayed the work of 35 members of the Arizona Artists Guild, which ranged from paintings and prints to sculptures and figures. Many pieces followed a theme of negative choices and rebirth.

Choices, by artist Lee Brown, used acrylic paints to depict a protest of townspeople blocking a woman from her local Planned Parenthood with pro-life activism signs meant to shame her. One of the protesters is even holding a sign that says “Human Life is Sacred” while wearing an ICE shirt and dragging a child in a dog cage behind him. The exhibit will be at First Studio through March's Third Friday. Sara Edwards

The RPM Orchestra 10th Anniversary Show at Langmade Project Space

There are approximately 10,000 craft bars and restaurants in downtown Phoenix and zero room for weirdos. With the loss of places like The Firehouse Gallery, Conspire, and Lawn Gnome Publishing, there isn't much left to do on Roosevelt Row but drink and nosh. The thrill of stumbling onto a bizarre performance art show on the streets, in a nearby laundromat, or somebody’s house near Fifth Street is gone. The good news is that it’s not gone for good. The weirdos have gone elsewhere.

Last night, over 40 weirdos assembled at the Langmade Project Space off Grand Avenue for RPM Orchestra’s 10th-anniversary show. Couches and white plastic lawn chairs were strewn across the hard concrete floor while giant canvases hung from the ceiling and swayed from side to side as the Orchestra played.

It was 45 minutes of multidisciplinary madness. The Arcana Collective contributed spoken word and stilt-walking high-jinks (with a musical assist on keyboards by the ubiquitous Andrew Jemsek). A typewriter and banjo dueted in blacklight, and guest singer Andrea Garber dropped some stunning operatic vocals for the song “Che Fiero Costume." The band performed a few numbers, ranging from group noise pieces where drums, electronics, stringed instruments, and even something that looked like a dildo were used to generate a transfixing racket.

A pair of short film screenings were a particular highlight. One of them, 2019’s Forge Ahead, was a neosurrealist industrial film. The other one, Hans Richter’s Dadaist headfuck Ghosts Before Breakfast, was the evening’s MVP. It featured spinning heads and bowler hats flying around together like planes in attack formation. They played through the whole film with the intensity of a train careening off its rails.

It was short, sweet, and a heartening reminder that the old weirdness is alive and well. Ashley Naftule

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