City Week

No More Ugly People

Portraits by Chris Rush
On display continuously through Saturday, Feb. 28
Tucson International Airport
7250 S. Tucson Blvd.

This year, when you're on your way home from your holiday travels, you can see a fascinating art exhibit while on your way to baggage claim.

Chris Rush, a local artist known for his intriguing portraits, has once again designed a show that aims to capture the mystery of a person while also providing an understanding of where that person comes from.

"Portrait art at its best is a kind of soul X-ray, and one of the great delights of doing portraits is that you can never get to the bottom of it," Rush said. "People are so changeable and so complicated that there's never just one story."

Rush's pieces--which can be seen at the Upper Link Gallery at the Tucson International Airport--fuse the drawings of people's faces with found pieces of art such as old documents and lost love letters to create a story.

"Some of my documents are from the 17th century, and some of them I found in the street yesterday," Rush said. "There is a warrant for the madame who ran a house of prostitution, and I sort of did an imaginary portrait of her."

If you think this sounds fascinating, you should see his spin-art pieces, created using explosive color.

"The black-and-white pieces are more graphic, but the spin art is the strongest part of the show, because it's the biggest and the most colorful," Rush said.

Rush, who was a designer and still-life painter before he stumbled into portrait art almost 10 years ago, depicts all kinds of people in the exhibit.

"I have interest in all kinds of people--young and old, people with disabilities, people who are geniuses, people of all shapes and forms--they are all equally fascinating," Rush said. "I can't find any ugly people--they all disappeared, because everybody is remarkable." --T.A.

Bah Humbug!

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Various times through Tuesday, Dec. 30
Top Hat Theatre Club
3110 E. Fort Lowell Road

The story of how Scrooge finds Christmas is a holiday classic--and one local theatre company is making sure that Tucsonans get to see it live.

The Top Hat Theatre Club has once again produced Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

"Every year, there are a few new wrinkles and thickeners," said James Gooden, who plays Scrooge and co-directs the production. "(This year), there is a new song for Scrooge in the first scene, called 'Why,' and there are some new lighting and sound effects."

In this classic production, the infamous Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who help him learn to be kind, happy and giving. The show will feature singing, dancing and "lavish Victorian costumes."

"As we get closer to the holiday, people really get into the holiday connection more, and as Scrooge learns his lessons and puts those lessons into action, you can really see and experience the audience relishing that journey along with you, so it's a lot of fun," Gooden said.

Top Hat will perform the Christmas classic through Tuesday, Dec. 30. You can catch the show at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Dec. 18 and 19; and 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 20 and 21. Show times will change beginning Dec. 22, when performances will take place Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 5:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m., through Dec. 30. A walk through Winterhaven with the cast will occur after the show on Monday, Dec. 22.

"There are really some significant and important issues about Christmas Carol," Gooden said. "... What sustains you is that it's about treating each other better and especially looking after our children a lot better."

Regular admission is $18, with discounts for children, seniors, students and military members. Call 326-6800 for reservations. --T.A.

Cherishing Roots and Celebrating the Future

Kuumba Market and Showcase
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20
11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21
Dunbar Cultural Center
325 W. Second St.

Barbea Williams, a teacher of dance at the UA, has organized an Afro-centric cultural event to promote the voice of our local African community through dance and other forms of artistic expression.

"I think it's very important to give a voice to African people--people I don't feel get enough attention in Arizona," Williams said.

The new Dunbar Cultural Center is hosting the Kuumba Market and Showcase, which will highlight African contributions in our society.

"Most of our groups are multiracial, but the artistic expression itself is a black art form," Williams said. "It will give a very important voice not only to our artists, but to our art forms through dance and music."

Dance is the main theme for the event, which will feature performances by local professional companies and student dancers performing traditional West African dance, line dance and Egyptian belly dance, along with traditional drumming and singing.

"They are not only beautiful physically to watch, but they are very articulate with their movement," Williams said.

There will be free workshops to learn dance and drumming techniques throughout the weekend. Folks are invited to bring their own drums and percussion instruments.

The cultural event will feature local vendors selling traditional African jewelry and clothing, rare ethnic books, oils, soaps and baked goods. There will also be an Afro-centric photo gallery, a local storyteller, a fine-art exhibit, free face-painting and a raffle.

"This is a way to share our roots and our future in terms of our young people," Williams said. "We're creating a voice through cultural expression so people can know that we have something to share and can have an understanding of our contribution." --T.A.

Nature in Black and White

Karl Blossfeldt: Nature's Magic Garden
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily, through Wednesday, Jan. 28
Tucson Botanical Gardens
2150 N. Alvernon Way
326-9686, ext. 16;

Many think that art and science mix about as well as oil and water--but Karl Blossfeldt, a German artist who lived around the turn of the 20th century, liked to link the two together.

Blossfeldt is known for his close-up and detailed photographs of plants that show both structure and beauty. He initially created the images on glass slides for his students to study; later, they were bound in large volumes.

A collection of these images is on display at the Gallery at the Gardens at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. The exhibit is part of an ongoing collaboration between the gardens and Etherton Gallery, said Daphne Srinivasan, of the Etherton Gallery.

"(The Botanical Garden's) mission is to beautify the city of Tucson and to keep this beautiful, natural, green environment going in a downtown metropolis," Srinivasan said. "We wanted to make sure that what we were doing fit with their larger mission, and so what we've been doing has been bringing in botanically related artwork."

These early photographs reveal the intricate and ethereal structures of the natural world. Blossfeldt used his images to show that simple, natural forms could be a source for art.

"In his mind, nature essentially could become these kind of models for a new art," Srinivasan said. "Although he was interested in nature and science, he understood it as a way of getting away from very stuffy, artificial traditions in a very overblown European art style."

In some ways, Blossfeldt and the Tucson Botanical Gardens have similar missions: to remind people of the simple but awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world.

General admission to the gardens is $7; for children ages 4 to 12, admission is $3; members and children 3 and younger get in for free. --C.C.