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End-of-Year Excitement 

Tucson's arts spaces are alive with activity before 2013's end

The week between Christmas and New Year's is almost as festive as the two big days themselves, and most of the downtown galleries are open at least a few days to catch art-loving merrymakers.

We here at the Weekly have put together an end-of-the-year tour of the arts spaces around Sixth and Sixth and all around downtown. Everything is closed Christmas Day, but nearly all the galleries reopen on either Thursday or Friday, Dec. 26 or 27. Holiday hours are posted here but be sure to call first in case gallery managers are seized by an irresistible last-minute impulse to play holiday hooky.

At Contreras Gallery, 110 E. Sixth St., Carmen Sonnes paints mixed-media images of Indian and Mexican women that are ethereal and earthy at the same time. "Navajo Madonna" is a solid, meditative figure pictured in front of the strong colors and geometries of a Navajo rug. The Madonna originally had closed eyes (see picture) but Sonnes slipped into the gallery and gave her eyes wide open.

In "The Divine Feminine" a woman, seen from the back, has a glittering halo made of broken mirrors. Melo Dominguez, the other artist in this two-woman show, paints Días de los Muertos skeletons in playful settings. "Desconocido," though, with its white crosses among the prickly pears, pays somber tribute to the migrants who die unknown in the desert. The gallery is open Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28, then reopens Jan. 2. A reception for the two artists will be held during the First Saturday Art Walk, from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 4. The show stays up until Jan. 25. 398-6557; contrerashousefineart.com.

At Davis Dominguez, 154 E. Sixth St., Albert Kogel has made a stunning forest of gigantic carved and painted stelae in the smaller gallery, and Barbara Jo McLaughlin has filled the main space with carved memorials to her father. On the 50th anniversary of his death at the age of 50, McLaughlin created a memorial flotilla of large-scale minimalist wooden pieces that conjure water and boats and fishing. The carved panels of Kogel's five pillars are like woodcut plates; jungle plants and faces, stained in acrylic colors. The beautiful show also includes abstract paintings by Andy Polk. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Dec. 26 and 27, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28. The show closes at end of day Saturday. The gallery reopens Jan. 2 with a new show of paintings by Debra Salopek and Tim Murphy. 629-9759; davisdominguez.com.

Wee Gallery, 439 S. Sixth Ave., No. 171, really is wee. It's a tiny interior room, sans windows, about 12 feet square. Enter the building on the east side, and then work your way west along a l-o-n-g corridor to find works in multiple media by Cristina Cárdenas. A gifted painter and draftswoman, Cárdenas has combined piercing portraits in gouache and acrylic with ceramic. Her imagery is soft and sensuous, with a magical realist sensibility. "Awakening," a nude of a female head and torso, is downright erotic. Open regular gallery hours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. The show closes at end of day Saturday. Wee reopens Jan. 2. The opening reception for the next show, Valerie Galloway, is 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 4. 360-6024; gallerywee.com. La Morenita, a lively group show at Raices Taller 222 Gallery, 218 E. Sixth St., still seems Christmas-y with its images of la Virgen de Guadalupe. But the pieces are not exactly doctrinal. Royce Davenport did a mash-up of Día de los Muertos and la Virgen imagery. Made of multi-media found objects lit with electric bulbs, his "Guadalupe de la Muerte" stands atop a skeleton head instead of an angel. Painter David Tineo's "Virgen del Maíz" appears as an ear of corn inside a couple of husks. Open 1 to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28. The show closes at end of the day Saturday. 881-5335; raicestaller222.org.

Conrad Wilde Gallery, 101 W. Sixth St., is remodeling its new space in the historic Steinfeld Warehouse. At an auction exhibition from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 4, during First Saturday, take a peek at the construction work done thus far. Art by the gallery's regular artists, who specialize in abstraction and the use of unexpected materials, will be up for bid. Proceeds benefit the renovation fund. 622-8997; conradwildegallery.com.

Tucson sculptor Curt Brill is known for his wonderfully supple figures in bronze, most of them large-scale pieces that are as delicate and free as drawings. So his new works in The Levity of Gravity at ATLAS Fine Art Services, 41 S. Sixth Ave., are an interesting surprise. They're small and abstract, "stabiles"—the opposite of mobiles—that rest on pedestals or stick out from the wall. Painted in candy colors, they're poetic structures in wood and wire. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 26 through Dec. 28, then closes until Jan. 2. The show continues through Saturday, Jan. 18. 622-2139.

Spill is a stunning figurative show of collaborative work by painter Bailey Doogan and photographer Ann Simmons-Myers, and sculptures and lithographs by the late Luis Jiménez, at Etherton Gallery, 135 S. Sixth Ave. Favorite images: the Milk series in which Doogan is veiled and dripping with spilled milk, and Chicano artist Jiménez's surprising litho of a settler taming the northern prairies with oxen and a plow. (See "Shock and Spill at Etherton," Tucson Weekly, Dec. 12, 2013.) The show continues through Feb. 1. The gallery is closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day, but otherwise open the usual hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 624-7370; ethertongallery.com.

Sacred Machine Museum, 245 E. Congress St., No. 123, showcases the work of Tucson native Daniel Martin Díaz, who paints apocalyptic variations on Mexican sacred art. Open 5 to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Dec. 26 and 27; 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28. Reopens Jan. 2. 977-7102; www.sacredmachine.com.

Three figurative ceramic artists—by turns playful and colorful—have taken over Obsidian Gallery, 410 N. Toole Ave., No. 120, in the Historic Train Depot. Making up this exuberant trio are Californians Wesley Andregg of Santa Barbara County and Cheryl Tall of Encinitas, and Claire Loder of Bath, England. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 26 through Dec. 28, with extra holiday hours from noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 29. Reopens Jan. 2. 577-3598; obsidian-gallery.com At Philabaum Glass Gallery and Studio, 711 S. Sixth Ave., proprietor Tom Philabaum, glass artist extraordinaire, cedes the spotlight to 11 other Arizona glass artists. They fill the space with glistening works in every glass technique: blown, fused, slump, lampworked, and mixed media. Artists include Jason Marstall, Cynthia Miller, Erika Parkin, Carole Perry and Louis Via. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28. Reopens Jan. 2. 884-7404; philabaumglass.com.

And don't forget the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave., where you can check out the über-Christmas-y El Nacimiento, the gigantic Mexican Nativity scene assembled each year by Maria Luis Tena. Visits to El Nacimiento, in La Casa Cordova, are free. Paid admission gets you into the main museum, which is exhibiting the still-life paintings of William Shepherd, the wildlife art of Bob Kuhn and A Show of Hands, artwork in a variety of genres unified in its subject matter: the human hand. Closed Christmas Day, but otherwise open regular hours, including New Year's Day. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, with extra hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday. $10 general, $8 seniors, $5 college students; free to ages 18 and younger. Free to all on the first Sunday of the month, Jan. 5. 624-2333; tucsonmuseumofart.org.

The Drawing Studio gallery and MOCA-Tucson, the museum of contemporary art, are closed through the holidays. MOCA reopens on Wednesday, Jan. 8; The Drawing Studio on Friday, Jan. 10.

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