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Take an Art Stroll 

Downtown's galleries are packed with great seasonal works

The Old Pueblo's vida loca is celebrated—and satirized—in Martin Quintanilla's raucous new exhibition at Contreras Gallery.

The poor Convento, the landmark Spanish adobe that Tucson allowed to crumble to dust, bravely raises its arches in the comical wall-size painting "Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo." Present-day landmarks also get their due in Quintanilla's wicked acrylics, from the old neon-lit motels on Drachman Street to the Rialto Theatre and Hotel Congress downtown.

In "Pecado Original (Original Sin)," the Rialto's vertical sign and booze bottles from Congress hover around a painted saguaro. A red devil tends the giant cactus with a pitchfork; below, hell fires burn, and a demon mask grins.

Welcome to Martin Quintanilla's Tucson, on display through Dec. 31 at Contreras Gallery and Jewelry, 110 E. Sixth St., 398-6557, www.contrerashousefineart.com. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday. Closed Dec. 22 through 26; open Dec. 27 through 31; early closing on New Year's Eve.

You can't see the Convento, real or re-imagined, anywhere outside of Contreras, but you can see other historic edifices that inspired Quintanilla if you take a stroll in Tucson's arts districts, now all lit up for Christmas. While you're at it, you can see plenty of art inside. Many galleries are running shows tailored to the holidays, exhibiting small pieces with (relatively) small price tags. Keep in mind that holiday hours can change at these small galleries; calling in advance is recommended.

Downtown's newest art venue, Atlas Fine Art Services, stages Small Works, an exhibition of compact drawings, paintings and prints by some 20 artists. Jim Waid entered three gorgeously colored plant-based oval paintings. Chris Rush has two exquisite drawings of human faces. Katherine Monaghan ingeniously colors her transfer prints with real rust.

Atlas proprietors James Schaub and Albert Chamillard have a lot of experience on the Tucson art scene, most recently at Firestone Gallery. A painter himself, Schaub says the gallery will focus on abstraction, and on artists connected to Arizona, exhibiting "two generations of artists: the old standbys, and new people."

Small Works continues through Jan. 14 at 41 S. Sixth Ave., 622-2139. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; regular hours on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

At The Drawing Studio, Atlas' next-door neighbor, Small Wonders exhibits 100 or more pieces in all media, none bigger than 11 inches by 17 inches. Kathryn Willis' thickly painted oil, "Golden Delicious," is luscious, as is Mariana Carreras' "Asleep," a tone-dry point etching of a female nude. Created by faculty, students and friends of the studio, all pieces are priced at $200 or less.

Small Wonders continues through Dec. 17 at 33 S. Sixth Ave., 620-0947, www.thedrawingstudio.org. Open noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, through Dec. 17; also open 7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, for 2nd Saturdays Downtown, and 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17, for the Tucson Parade of Lights.

Nearby, Obsidian Gallery has settled into the Historic Train Depot, after pulling up stakes at St. Philip's Plaza. "We're doing well downtown," the gallery's James Prillaman says. "On Fridays and Saturdays especially, we see 50, 60, 70 people in a given day."

Right now, visitors can take in Figures and Frames, a figurative show concentrating on two Tucson sculptors. Michael Cajero has a small tribe of figures in glittery ceramic. They're not as anguished as some of his previous twisted papier-mâché works, but "Waiting Old Man," a writhing figure in clay and sparkly glaze, comes close. Curt Brill exhibits 14 of his wonderfully attenuated bronze nudes, including "Lisa," a life-size female nude that once presided in a show at the University of Arizona Museum of Art.

Among 2-D artists displaying works on the wall, Brooke Grucella, director of the UA's Joseph Gross Gallery, is showing "In Your Eyes," a delightfully ironic ink drawing on photo paper of a man holding a baby.

Figures and Frames continues through Jan. 14 at 410 N. Toole Ave., No. 130, 577-3598, www.obsidian-gallery.com. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; closing at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Kate Breakey's mesmerizing Slowlight photographs dominate her midcareer survey at Etherton Gallery. See the review in the Nov. 24 Tucson Weekly. The exhibit is on display through Jan. 21 at 135 S. Sixth Ave., 624-7370, www.ethertongallery.com. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Stroll south to Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery to take a look at Studio Hotshots, an exhibition of local glass artists. The lineup includes Dan Enwright, Erika Parkin, Louis Via and Paul Anders-Stout, along with work by the gallery's guiding light, Tom Philabaum. Check out the studio-made holiday ornaments in glass. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of artists at work melting glass in the fiery furnace.

Studio Hotshots opens with a reception from 3 to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, and closes Jan. 28, at 711 S. Sixth Ave., 884-7404, www.philabaumglass.com. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Call for holiday hours.

North of downtown, in the gallery-rich zone at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, Paris-based painter Jan Olsson and Oracle sculptor Joy Fox team up at Davis Dominguez Gallery. Olsson, originally from Tucson, photographed the All Souls Procession last year, and used the wrenching skeleton images to retell the tragic tale of Psyche, whose marriage coincided with her death. Olsson painted on the surface of the photos, using a somber palette of beige, black and gray. She also has some lighter, holiday-friendly work, a series of lovely, loosely sketched drawings of women at work (ironing) and play (trying on fashions).

Fox continues with her large-scale ceramics, burning and etching flesh-colored clay to conjure figures that are half-human, half animal. The exhibit is on display through Dec. 17 at 154 E. Sixth St., 629-9759, www.davisdominguez.com. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday.

Conrad Wilde Gallery has scaled back and moved around the corner. While the new space, Suite 195 in the Firestone Building, is "significantly smaller," gallery director Miles Conrad says he plans to continue exhibiting fine contemporary art, though on a more-limited basis. The first exhibition in the new space, High Contrast, showcases such gallery favorites as Tim Mosman and Margaret Suchland, who explore "juxtapositions of dark and light."

Conrad is also sponsoring a new venture, Tucson Contemporary Arts, in Wilde's former space in No. 171 of the Firestone. The new venue—a nonprofit, co-op membership gallery—is actively seeking artists. For now, the gallery is continuing the Wilde-organized show of Willow Bader's sensuous encaustic paintings of dancers.

High Contrast continues through Dec. 23 at Conrad Wilde Gallery, Suite 195, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Willow Bader: Bodies in Motion continues through Dec. 23 at Tucson Contemporary Arts, Suite 171. Both galleries are at 439 N. Sixth Ave. and can be reached at 622-8997; www.conradwildegallery.com.

Susan Gamble's Santa Theresa Tile Works each year comes up with new designs for ceramic holiday ornaments. Entries for 2011 include an angel in a purple dress and silver wings, and a Three Kings camel plodding toward Bethlehem. Judaica ornaments feature a menorah or a Star of David; 440 N. Sixth Ave., 623-8640, www.santatheresatileworks.com. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday.

Poco a Poco at Raices Taller 222 is a holiday exhibition of small works, all priced at $222 or less. Some 30 invited guest artists contributed pieces in all media. The art of Oracle-based husband-and-wife artists James Cowlin and Barbara Kemp Cowlin is inspired by the landscape. Painter Barbara works in acrylic on panel, painting abstracted reflections of the land in water; photographer James produces pigment ink prints.

Jessie Shinn, whose inked landscapes on recycled notepaper dazzled in a recent show, this time paints abstractions in ink and acrylic on clay board.

Poco a Poco continues through Jan. 7 at 218 E. Sixth St., 881-5335, raicestaller222.webs.com. Open 1 to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday. At 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, students from the UA Department of Spanish and Portuguese perform a kid-friendly version of La Pastorela in the gallery. Donations suggested; bring goodies to share.

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