Jessica Rebik's portraits are so hyperrealist that you'd swear they were photos.
Take "Grey," a close-up of a young woman in the group show "Portraiture Now: New Contemporary" at Baker + Hesseldenz Art. Every hair, every freckle, every bump on the woman's skin is pictured in exacting details.
But "Grey" isn't a photo: Rebik is a painter and this work is an oil on board. Even so, her paintings are closely linked to photography. Instead of using live models, she takes photos of her subjects, alters them digitally, and then makes a painting that's less a representation of a person than it is a "painting of a manipulated photograph," as she explains in an artist's statement.
And to the surprise of the gallery's two owners, many of her paintings, including "Grey," are snapshot size.
The pair find artists for their gallery from online sources—"I saw some of her works on Tumblr," show curator Scott Baker says—and they corresponded with the Illinois artist solely via e-mail.
"She sent an email saying the painting was four-by-six," Baker says with a laugh. "I thought she meant feet. When it arrived, it was just four inches by six inches."
He was thrilled with it nonetheless.
"It's a beautiful little painting."
The tiny "Grey" is a centerpiece of an exhibition showcasing paintings by a dozen artists doing innovative work in portraiture. The year-old Baker + Hesseldenz gallery leans toward edgy California artists, and this outing includes work by Los Angeles painter Aaron Nagel and Pasadena artist Michael Hussar, who contributed a loosely painted portrait of an artist's daughter (posted at www.bakerhesseldenz.com).
Two locals made the cut. Titus Castanza has "one little portrait and one really big, loose abstract painting, about 42 inches by 36 inches," Baker says. And acclaimed Tucson artist Chris Rush, who has distinguished himself for his penetrating portraits of disabled children and for his drawings on antique documents, is scheduled to show two works, including one still under construction as of last week.
Rebik also was expected to send one more work to the exhibition but she had to call it to a halt before it was finished.
"She's pregnant and she's due to give birth this week," Baker says.
Up since last weekend, the show opens formally during a reception at the gallery, 100 E. Sixth St., from 6 to 9 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 7; 760-0037. It's just one of eight galleries that will be open this Saturday night during the 16th Art Safari, group receptions staged by the Central Tucson Gallery Association.
This entertaining event typically offers up refreshments, throngs of art lovers and a wide array of media. Below is a quick checklist of participants. Unless otherwise noted, the receptions are from 6 to 9 p.m.
Next door to Baker + Hesseldenz, Contreras Gallery, 110 E. Sixth St., celebrates 11 local women in "Inspiration on Canvas and Paper." Among the artists are Glory Tacheenie-Campoy, who reinterprets Navajo motifs; abstractionist Ann Tracy Lopez; and multi-media artist Ceci Garcia; 398-6557.
Davis Dominguez, 154 E. Sixth, has mounted a show of abstract expressionist paintings by Josh Goldberg and metal sculpture by Steve Murphy. Reception 6 to 8 p.m. 629-9759.
"Class War," paintings by Nick Flatt, has its closing reception at Moen Mason Gallery, 222 E. Sixth St.; 262-3806.
Raices Taller, 218 E. Sixth, marks the New Year—and new artwork—in the group show "Año Nuevo, Nuevas Obras."; 881-5335
A few blocks west, at 101 W. Sixth St. at Ninth Ave. Conrad Wilde stages two exhibitions of arty experimentations with beeswax and encaustics: "Tipping Point," Laura Moriarty's solo show, and "Geologic Time," a group outing; 622-8997.
Even farther west, at Pima Community College, 2202 W. Anklam Road, "Breaking Down Surface Tension" exhibits paintings, photos and mixed-media works by five artists, including Tucsonans David Longwell, Kathleen Velo and Katey Monaghan; 206-6942.
And one of downtown's last remaining galleries, Philabaum Glass, 711 S. Sixth Ave., unveils the solo show "Glass Imagined," tracing the long career of glass artist Henry Halem. Note: reception starts at 5 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.; 884-7404.