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click to enlarge Tsehai Johnson's "Dispenser and Receptacle: Condoms" at the FAC
  • Tsehai Johnson's "Dispenser and Receptacle: Condoms" at the FAC

Careless Whispers

Every so often, the Fine Arts Center stirs slightly from its mid-20th-century torpor, and throws up a genuinely interesting exhibition. Opening today, Colorado 2002: A Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Art is one such show. Juried by the FAC's new curator of fine arts, Scott Snyder, the show consists of 77 works from 64 different artists, selected from over 1,000 pieces submitted by 360 artists.

It's a fascinating snapshot of the local/regional art scene, through the quirky lens of a sophisticated newcomer. Some of the usual suspects were rounded up (Tracy Felix, Dawn Wilde, Atomic Elroy, Carol Dass, Jean Gumpper, Sean O'Meallie), but there are a couple of dozen artists who have, as far as I know, never exhibited locally. Some are from the Pikes Peak region; many are not.

Marc Chagall would have loved Manitou Springs. Or maybe his spirit inspires some of the resident artists, who produce light, joyous, deeply felt work. For proof, take a look at Tracy Felix's "Flatirons," Dawn Wilde's "8 Moods of Pikes Peak" and Steve Morath's "Autumn Journey." The latter is especially wonderful, a radiant waking dream, careful and vivid, whose imagery, both scary and comforting, lingers in your mind like a recurring dream.

Denver's Tsehai Johnson has the quirkiest, most original, most finely crafted, and very possibly the best pieces in the show. Johnson creates objects of fine porcelain, whose style, shape, glaze and craftsmanship are unlike any studio ceramics of this century, or the last one. You'd have to go back to the earliest years of the Arts and Crafts movement, or even to European wares of the 18th and 19th centuries, to find similar pieces. These are pieces made for ritual, with their sinuous curves, rich translucent glazes, and gilt highlights. And what rituals does Johnson have in mind? Intimate, hidden, uncelebrated and common to all of us -- just read the title. "Dispensers and Receptacles: Condoms."

It's difficult to communicate raw emotion in a static visual medium other than photography. Anger, joy, grief, fear -- we think of Capra's dying Loyalist soldier, or of Spielberg's images of the Holocaust. Yet Elizabeth Szabo's shattering mixed-media assemblage, "My Sister's Suicide," has that power. It's allusive, not explicit; Szabo confronts the blackness of death with sidelong glances, with sudden lightening flashes into the human heart. It's a moving, powerful work, full of pain, darkness and beauty.

A friend of mine once observed, after we'd spent the afternoon looking at some particularly aggressive pieces of performance art/found art/really big art, "You know, I'm just sick of all these jerks shouting at me. I'd like to find someone to whisper to me."

She'd be happy with this show, which includes a lot of quiet, subtle pieces, most on a very human scale. Don't miss Dave Phelps' "A-Parthe," a perfectly rendered moth, in colored pencil and ink, carefully executed on the back of a dollar bill! Similarly, Don Green's sensual sculpture, "Rondo," beautifully constructed out of copper, wood, glass and brass, is calm and lovely.

Best of Show? There are too many fine pieces (most, alas, unmentioned because of space constraints) to name just one. My personal favorite? Colorado Springs resident Laurel Swab's "Our Ladies," a triptych of three women, puzzling and ambiguous. Is it about female sexuality? About religion? About the painter's divided selves? Swab's art, always good, has become deeper, more complex, more skillful over the years, and it's been a satisfying process to witness.

In sum, a show to see, to spend time with, and to delight in. But watch out for the guy wrapped in barbed wire, with the stainless steel spikes protruding from his chest ... (George Ericson, "Two Ideals for a Niche").

-- John Hazlehurst

click to enlarge Gisele Freund's portrait of Frida Kahlo, 1951
  • Gisele Freund's portrait of Frida Kahlo, 1951


capsule

Colorado 2002: A Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Art opening with Frida Kahlo Unmasked and The Enduring Word

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center,

30 W. Dale St.

Opening reception: Fri., Jan. 25, 5-7:30 p.m.

On exhibit through April.

24 Thursday Not having many kids in close, regular proximity, I'm not too hip on Bear and his large azure home. But I've had at least six people ask me -- three actually plead with me -- to get them tickets to this show. And they never follow it up with the standard "my kids really want to go." No, this is more of a parental request, a disturbing gleam in their eyes revealing that these tickets are really for them, and if there's room, the kids can tag along. Perhaps there will be bonding. It's not surprising, as the late Jim Henson and his motley crew have been enchanting kids and adults for decades, first with The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, and now Bear in the Big Blue House. Overseen now by Henson's son, Jim Henson Productions presents the musical show at the Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave., tonight through Sunday. Tickets are $12 to $21, and times vary. Call 520-SHOW for details. Tonight's performance begins at 7.

25 Friday

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of mellow, acoustic, folksy anything, but I always make exceptions for any music that is played well (note I said well, that's better than proficiently) and accented by a good voice. Local pillar of acousticism Joe Uveges is in possession of both attributes. His action is very Sunday morning/E-Town/Boulder-y/Silk is Soy/Earth Day/West Siderish, liberal and sensitive, with lots of James Taylor feel and mature instrumentation. Uveges releases a collection of his works titled One Down, One Across at a CD Release Party tonight at First Congregational Church, 20 E. St. Vrain. Everybody who is anybody will be there -- Jen Griffis, Steve Hoke, Jim Sokol, Phil Volan -- at 7 p.m. Admission is $5, but you get in free with a purchase of Joe's CD. To find out more, call 389-0719.

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St.) has three new shows opening tonight, including Colorado 2002 (see "Careless Whispers" on left), The Enduring Word: The Art of Printing and Frida Kahlo Unmasked: Portraits by Various Photographers. Kahlo, the sensual Mexican painter who had a penchant for self-portraits, is one of the most respected female artists of the 20th century and the collection opening tonight features works not by Kahlo but by photographers, including Diego Rivera and the Mayo Brothers, who captured her steely grace and unmistakable eyebrows from age four until her death in 1954. The opening reception for the new exhibitions is tonight from 5 to 7:30. Admission is free. Call 634-5583.

click to enlarge "Blues Project" by Howard Chapin Shaw II - SUNNIE SACKS

Just a reminder -- the Business of Art Center (513-515 Manitou Ave.) reveals its new show tonight. The Blues Project features works tied together only by the common bond of "blue," and to accent the theme, the reception will be followed by a live concert with Smokin' Joe and the Mighty Burners, Mark Jackson, Magic Dave Therault and other local blues musicians in the new theater space next door. Admission is free, and blues workshops will be conducted on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 685-1861 for details.

New art: Pikes Peak Community College's Downtown Campus (100 W. Pikes Peak Ave.) unveils its Annual Student Art Show tonight. Feast your eyes from 5 to 8. The show is up through March 1. Call 527-6000.

26 Saturday

After Scottish poet Robert Burns died in 1796, his friends began holding regular dinners in his honor. Since then, the Burns dinners have evolved into a ritualized evening revolving around a few of Burns' poems and the Scottish national snack, haggis. That's right, haggis. Burns loved it so much he wrote an Address to it (Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face/ Great chieftain o the Puddin'-race!/ Aboon them a' ye tak your place/ Painch, tripe, or thairm:/ Weel are ye wordy of a grace/ As lang's my arm.)

At a Burns dinner, the haggis is toasted, read to, clapped for, graced and, finally, eaten with other traditional Scottish fare such as Typsy Laird and Bashed Neeps. The Scottish Society of the Pikes Peak region is holding its own Burns Nicht Dinner tonight at the Retired Enlisted Association Chapter 1, 834 Emory Circle. The dinner begins at 7 with a cash bar at 6. For reservations, call Deb McCullough at 528-5561.

Take the kids to Lazer Vaudeville, a "journey through the imagination" via black lights, lasers, juggling, acrobatic dance and slapstick comedy. Children and psychedelia are never really very far apart. The show is performed at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo -- 210 N. Santa Fe Ave. Tickets are $5; call 719/542-1211.

29 Tuesday

As I'm sure you've heard, the Projekt: Revolution tour featuring feelgood family singing groups Linkin Park, Cypress Hill and Adema play the World Arena tonight, 3185 Venetucci Blvd. See page 22 for more.

30 Wednesday

click to enlarge Charming your Chuck Taylors off - The Mansfields
  • Charming your Chuck Taylors off - The Mansfields

To be showered with awards, to frolic in fellowships, to have people really, truly, respect your Art! Such is the life of author Mark Doty, whose poetry collections and memoirs have garnered him awards ranging from Britain's T.S. Eliot Prize to Guggenheim grants. Doty is reading from and signing his works, which include Atlantis and My Alexandria, this evening in UCCS' University Center, Room 303 (1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway). Admission to the reading is free and it begins at 7. Call 262-3532.

---Kristen Sherwood

Bad Punks Make Good

A big hand for The Mansfields as they get ready to export their Coloradified version of ass-kicking three-chord Ramonesque proto-punk. The Springs-based trio (Dave, Doug and Tommy Mansfield) has been gathering their riffs about them since 1995 when they began playing shows under the name The Violent Nine.

The group changed their name to The Mansfields after playing a gig at L.A.'s Whisky A Go-Go where bombshell Jayne Mansfield herself was said to have first met The Beatles (she purportedly asked John Lennon if his moppish hair was real, and he purportedly replied with the same question about her 40-inch tetons).

In 1997, The Mansfields self-recorded their first album, Sappy Songs for Summer Nights, in three days for $1,400. It was later released by Blast Off Records in 1998 after NYC label-maven Suzie Headcase heard the band playing a show in Boulder.

The band quickly grew a fan base while touring with the likes of L7, The Queers and 7 Year Bitch, and even got national radio play from a compilation track called "I Like the Ramones." And in 1999, Sappy was listed as one of the top 35 punk albums of the '90s by the UK's Alternative Recycler Magazine (which also named Green Day, Social Distortion and The Donnas).

In 2000, The Mansfields released their second album, Kill Your Radio on Mutant Pop Records.

With hooky pop chainsaw riffs and a retro sound that defies nostalgia, The Mansfields charm your Chuck Taylors off with songs like "Dumb Fuck In Love," "Jayne Mansfield Was A Punk," "Kill Your Radio" and the deadhead-hatin' Johnny Cashlike lullaby "When I'm Forty-Three." If a healthy helping of self-deprecation is what you're looking for, try "My Life is One Big Fucking Mess" and "Born to Lose."

If you missed their Ramones B-day bash last Friday, don't miss their Euro-tour kickoff party at Industrial Nation tonight, Thursday, Jan. 24, with Dejex.


capsule

The Mansfields with Dejex

Industrial Nation, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $5. Call 520-0980.

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