PAPER PRAYERS: When the Japanese go to visit the sick, says Anne Maley, director of the Shanti Foundation, they like to bring along a "paper prayer," a small piece of artwork, to give to the patient.
"It's not a religious practice, it's just a practice that people do to promote good health," Maley says. "It's art. The idea is that the person will be surrounded by well-being and beauty."
This is the third year Shanti and Dinnerware have cooperated in staging an exhibition and sale of Paper Prayers to benefit Shanti's programs for AIDS patients. There are lots of paper prayers already up in the gallery windows and more will come wafting into the gallery on Tuesday, November 28.
"They'll be hung on clotheslines and we'll construct walls of paper prayers," says Nora Kuehl, Dinnerware manager.
The exhibition of hundreds of artworks, each a long, narrow strip about four by 12 inches, will officially open on Thursday, November 30. Late that afternoon will be the gala sale and silent auction. Any paper prayers left over will continue on view at the gallery through December 22.
"What a lot of artists do is make one specifically for the project," says Kuehl. "Or some of them will cut up a painted piece of canvas into the strip size. Maybe the whole thing didn't work as a piece of art but a small section is beautiful."
Some notable Tucson artists whose paper prayers are already in the gallery are Gail Marcus-Orlen, who has contributed cut-up strips of her brightly colored canvases. (You can see Marcus-Orlen's regular-size paintings at a brand-new group show at Etherton Gallery running through January 13.) Fiber artist Ann Keuper mounted a print of Amelia Earhart onto fine paper and stitched a feather onto it. To-Ree-Néé put together a mixed-media painted piece emblazoned with the words "GIVE SOUL." The works of the better-known artists will join plenty of others by student artists and even Shanti clients. About 50 have been framed by local shops donating their services.
"It's a nice way to get small gifts of art," says Kuehl. "Or you can come and buy (the unframed works) for Christmas cards."
Last year the Paper Prayers sale raised some $4,000 for Shanti, $2,000 the year before that, Maley says. The money goes directly into client services. Shanti offers a buddy program, wherein volunteers spend four hours a week with clients, a food pantry, transportation services and support groups. As the AIDS epidemic wears on, says Maley, "Our caseloads are increasing." People first infected in the early 1980s are entering into full-blown AIDS now, she notes. "A lot of people (Tucson AIDS patients) have died in the last three or four months. It's always hard. We're trying to do prevention work and also give services to those who are still living."
After doing its bit by hosting Paper Prayers, Dinnerware will mark December 1, National AIDS Awareness Day, by participating in the corresponding International Day Without Art. "Everything will be shrouded with black cloth," says Keuhl. The show that will be covered up for a day will be the 13th Biennial Invitational, an exhibition of works by some 23 "emerging, regional and nationally recognized artists." Some of the better known Tucson artists in the show include painters Cristina Cardenas, Rene Verdugo and Will Saunders.
The official opening for the invitational will be the evening of December 1. The shrouds will come off the art, Kuehl says, and lit candles in the gallery will "celebrate the endurance of the human spirit."
Paper Prayers opens November 30 at Dinnerware, 135 E. Congress St., and some of the works will continue on view through December 22. The gala sale and silent auction will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, November 30. The admission price of $10 gets you hors d'oeuvres goodies from the likes of Penelope's, Epic Café, Delectables, Vivace, Papagayo, Apples & Sourdough, Cucina Contenta, The Natural Choice and B&B Café. All proceeds go to the Shanti Foundation.
The 13th Biennial Invitational runs from November 28 through December 22 at Dinnerware. The candlelit opening reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, December 1. Regular gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and during Thursday evening Art Walks and Downtown Saturday Nights. The gallery is closed over the Thanksgiving weekend, from November 23 through 27. For information call 792-4503.
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