How many 21st-century artists do you know who use sticks and twigs as their primary media? There's at least one in the world. Her name is Sally Elliot, and she uses sticks to make cute, witty and decidedly unprimitive sculptures.
Elliot first became inspired by sticks during hiking trips she took through Utah's Capitol Reef National Park, where she encountered an endless supply of twisted and gnarled cottonwood, piñon and juniper branches. In the beginning, she allowed the original shapes of the branches to dictate what the piece would become. Now, as she's developed more confidence and skill, she lets her imagination guide her work, seeking out specific bits of wood that fit the requirements of already-formed concepts. Making use of her formal training in the performing arts--along with embellishments like seed beads, acrylic paint and wire--she transforms collections of sticks into comical characters.
"Currently," Elliot says, "I'm enjoying creating figures that represent humorous translations of words, objects or expressions such as 'bird brain,' 'coat of arms,' 'liar, liar,' 'meat-head' and 'two-faced.' I hope that visitors to my show will be delighted by the whimsical nature of each figure and enjoy a brief diversion from the daily bombardment of negativity that can surround us."
You have to witness these pieces firsthand in order to get how absolutely delightful they are. So if the idea of stick sculpture intrigues you--and if you'd like to experience some high-quality and unpretentious art--you can see Elliot's work through the end of this month. Admission to the exhibit is free, but be sure to call the gallery before you show up to guarantee viewing availability. --A.M.
In order to develop a comfortable attitude toward death, people need to embrace it at an early age. Not in a morbid way, but in a positive way--after all, death is part of life. That's the basic idea behind Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a Mexican holiday that celebrates existence by honoring the lives of those who've passed on. And this weekend, at the Tucson Children's Museum's Día de los Muertos Festival, you can make sure your kids start out with some healthy ideas about mortality by exposing them to a lighter side of death.
Not only will the party be good for kids' psychology, but they'll actually like it, too. Fun, hands-on activities will include making papel picado (colorful banners used in Mexico to decorate graveyards) and sugar skulls, which are commonly placed on altars (and which taste great). There will be live entertainment by Mariachi Las Aguilitas de Davis, a children's mariachi group based at Davis Elementary School, as well as a guiñol puppet show performance. And both kids and adults will get something out of looking at Day of the Dead exhibits, which will include a display of Yaqui-influenced tomb and altar designs, papier mâché calacas (skeleton figurines) and traditional Mexican altars.
Peggy Solís, the Children's Museum's public relations director, can sum up the event's significance in just a few words: "Sharing cultural traditions ... is an opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange (and) an important part of understanding and appreciating diversity. Add fun to the equation, and the experience tends to be unforgettable."
The festival will be free, as will that day's admission to the Children's Museum. All kids must be accompanied by an adult. --A.M.
How is an alcoholic, sexually tormented ex-priest like an iguana dangling from a rope, about to be eaten? According to Pima Community College's Dr. Frank Pickard, musing on Tennessee Williams' play The Night of the Iguana, it has to do with the emotional weight of human existence. "(H)ow do we learn to live with the choices we make in life?" Pickard asks. "How has life shaped us? ... The iguana at the end of the rope throughout (this) play, waiting to be devoured for dinner, is a central metaphor. ... (It's) about people who have reached the end of their ropes and (in) one way or another face transformation."
Set in tropical Mexico in the '40s, the play centers around the Rev. Shannon, a defrocked Episcopalian minister acting as tour guide for a busload of vacationing church women. Leading his party to a cheap hotel owned by a now-deceased old friend of his, Shannon becomes involved in an odd love triangle with the hotel owner's widow and one of his churchgoing charges, with whom he forms a deeply human bond that dies out in a tragic ending.
Sounds kind of depressing, doesn't it? But Pickard insists that it's not. "In fact," he says, "we see the characters breaking away from their ropes, freeing themselves, and then going on with their lives. There is growth, renewal. The author does not give us a happy ending, but a hopeful one."
If you'd like to experience the profundity Pickard is talking about, or if you yourself have ever felt the weight of the world, you can see the PCC version of Williams' play. Starring talented young actor Benjamin Hoffman, the production is bound to be good, because Dr. Pickard is directing--and he's obviously passionate about the work. Tickets are $6 to $10 for adults. --A.M.
Everyone who's lived long enough remembers blues and jazz diva Maria Muldaur for her 1974 single, "Midnight at the Oasis." But she's written and performed a lot more songs than that one. In fact, she's recorded more than 30 albums throughout her career. And guess what? Maria Muldaur is back in a big way. The newest release, entitled Heart of Mine, is a unique interpretation of love songs by Bob Dylan, her old contemporary in the '60s Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit.
As with much of Muldaur's work, this latest album has gotten huge critical acclaim. "Melismas flow from Muldaur's lips like smooth whisky," says Lee Hildebrand in the San Francisco Chronicle. "(H)er sly, winking sensuality often works wonders," adds Daniel Gewertz of BostonHerald.com. And, according to blues critic Dylann DeAnna, Muldaur has "a beautiful voice--a disparate instrument with both childlike charm and enough whisky-weathered weariness to keep it bluesy."
Muldaur, currently on tour with her first-rate backing band, will give a concert hosted by Rhythm and Roots in Tucson this Friday. She'll perform songs from Heart of Mine, as well as hits like "Cajun Moon," "Louisiana Love Call," "Don't You Feel My Leg" and--of course--"Midnight at the Oasis." She'll also pay tribute to early female blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie.
"This will be a very soulful show," says Rhythm and Roots producer Jonathan Holden. "Maria's performances are infectious--part down-home revival, part sophisticated and joyful sensuality, and all a celebration of her total nature--strong independence and loving openness."
Reserved seats are $25 in advance. Rhythm and Roots also welcomes volunteers; contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to help out with the show. --A.M.