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Downtown's art galleries join forces to kick off the fall art season

Rancho Linda Vista's newest painter, Matthias Düwel, makes his Tucson debut this Saturday night during The Big Picture, when a dozen or so downtown galleries kick off the fall art season.

Berlin born and bred, Düwel will show his serious "cathedral" paintings, large canvases of urban devastation occupying the nebulous terrain between abstraction and representation.

"I grew up with the Wall in Berlin," says Düwel, a big German who'd been living in New York City since the late '80s. "It was a bombed-out city until recently; there were bullet holes in the walls. I'm interested in things falling apart."

In residence at the 36-year-old Oracle arts colony since January, Düwel is the first artist who's used the studio of the late Bruce McGrew since the beloved painter's death five years ago. Düwel has followed his studio's former owner to Davis Dominguez Gallery, which last week closed a posthumous McGrew show. The German has the gallery's "new artist" slot, sharing the cavernous warehouse space with Tucson painter Joanne Kerrihard.

But Düwel's debut is not the only news coming out of The Big Picture. Dinnerware, rumored this summer to be near death, roars back to life one more time, with a new director and a robust show of donated works to be sold in a fund-raising auction. Two new galleries opened in September near Davis Dominguez in the bustling Warehouse District, staking out separate claims on the old Firestone Auto Supply building at the southwest corner of Sixth and Sixth, former home of the late Industry Gallery. And just south of the new galleries, on Sixth Avenue, the owners of a brand-new café, Flying Saucer, were working feverishly last week, hoping to serve their lattes and mochas for the first time on Saturday night.

"With the café, furniture, art and the (Santa Theresa) Tile Works, this will become a lively little district," says Phoebe McDermott, the optimistic young proprietor of Platform Gallery, purveyor of contemporary art at Sixth and Sixth.

McDermott's Big Picture show highlights the pop-bright works of Matt Cotten, a painter who is also Tucson's best-known puppet master, and digital street photographs by Duane Dugas. UA grad student Amy Shapiro draws on the traditionally female arts of fabric and needlework in provocative mixed-media works, embroidering patterned bed sheets with porno girls who might have stepped out the pages of Penthouse.

Philadelphia native McDermott says she worked for three years as an archaeological illustrator in Belize, then learned the gallery biz at Tucson's Morningstar Traders. She opened Platform Sept. 1.

"All the galleries have been very supportive," she notes. "I'd like to be here a long time."

Next door to Platform, Lauren Gregersen-Brown threw open the doors to Fala Gallery around the same time. An acronym for furniture-art-lighting-accessories, Fala treads the boundary between art and fine crafts. The inaugural show features sophisticated mixed-media wall weavings and paintings, pottery and high-end wooden furniture.

"I have a background in textiles," explains Gregersen-Brown, who moved to Tucson a year ago from Michigan, where she managed a gallery that showed "museum-quality crafts." Gregersen-Brown studied at Michigan's Cranbrook Academy of Art, a "unique place that really integrates all the arts, from architecture and fiber to painting and design."

Several of her artists also hail from Cranbrook. Grad Anne Lindberg sews threads into the thin wood veneer of her wall works. Mi-Kyoung Lee, now a professor at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, also works with thread, stitching it into elaborate ball-point-pen drawings. Gregersen-Brown's own works are delicate weavings of painted packing peanuts.

"I have my own studio upstairs," says the gallery owner, who is planning to switch to painting on fiber. "I'm hoping to find a niche where the gallery can survive."

Susan Gamble, owner of Santa Theresa Tile Works around the corner, decided a café is what the neighborhood needs not only to survive but to thrive. The Flying Saucer will offer coffees, alternative sodas and packaged "semi-gourmet" food to go. The tile artist and her sister, Leslie Gamble, hired Rich Johnson, a four-year veteran of a Seattle coffee shop, to run the place.

"If this neighborhood is going to grow, it's time to get started," Gamble says.

Down on Fourth Avenue, another optimist, Blake Shell, has taken on the job of directing Dinnerware Contemporary Art. An MFA grad of Savannah College of Art and Design, Shell is a photographer who ran two different galleries in Georgia.

"Dinnerware is heading in a good direction," she says. "Expect changes. It's going to be great."

Works in the current show, to be auctioned off Saturday, Oct. 23, include ceramics by Aurore Chabot, paintings by Cristina Cardenas and Judith D'Agostino, and mixed-media work by the Weekly's own Rand Carlson.

Here's a complete rundown of the galleries that will be open Saturday night. Some belong to the Central Tucson Galleries Association; some don't.

In the Warehouse District, Davis Dominguez, 154 E. Sixth St. (629-9759), stages a reception from 6 to 8 p.m.; Platform, 439 N. Sixth Ave., 189B (882-3886), 6 to 9 p.m.; Fala, 439 N. Sixth Ave., 189a (628-4183), 6 to 8 p.m.; Santa Theresa Tile Works, 439 N. Sixth Ave., (623-8640), 6 to 8 p.m.

Metroform Ltd., the photography gallery at 110 E. Sixth St. (882-6606), shows the works of Larry Wiese at a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop, 222 E. Sixth St. (881-5335), shows monoprints mixed with dirt by Ceci Garcia and mixed-media paintings by George Welch. Reception is from 6 to 9 p.m.

Down in the Fourth Avenue gallery cluster, The Drawing Studio, 214 N. Fourth Ave. (620-0947), exhibits works by its faculty from 6 to 9 p.m. Dinnerware, 210 N. Fourth Ave. (792-4503), is open from 7 to 10 p.m.

Downtown, at Studio 180 Fine Art at 180 E. Broadway (520-884-5454), John Caverly is showing Kim-Loan Nguyen, a Parisian painter whose bold abstracts draw on her Vietnamese heritage. The opening is 5 to 9 p.m. At 3Falk, 41 S. Sixth Ave. (520-628-9601), co-owner Jason W. Falk will put up his own Mondrian-like abstractions; the reception is from 6 to 10 p.m.

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More by Margaret Regan

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