Gifted Brits

A foreign-exchange program at The Drawing Studio is a highlight of the upcoming Art Safari

The British are coming, and so is their art.

Fourteen artists from Northampton, a university town 60 miles north of London, are premiering their work in Tucson this weekend. The big cross-cultural show at The Drawing Studio, aptly called Bridges, also exhibits art by 19 members of TAG, the Tucson Artist Group.

"I'm really excited to see this hung," says Kathleen Velo, a Palo Verde High School photography teacher, TAG member and chief instigator of Bridges. "I've been working on this for two years."

The UK artworks make their Tucson debut during Art Safari Saturday evening, when the Central Tucson Gallery Association members open their doors all at once.

Leonel Moogin will show his digital panoramas of the countryside around Northampton, with its damp winter woods and gray skies. Glenys Ng, a New Zealand-born artist of Vietnamese heritage, sent a "large digital mural that's the least-traditional piece in the show," Velo says. Ceramic artist Clare Brookes normally makes large-scale pieces related to organic forms and the land, and sculptor Rob Fogell makes big stone abstracts but, Velo notes, shipping considerations forced them both to go small for this show.

Among the Tucsonans, painter Cynthia Miller paid homage to the distinct pottery traditions of the two regions in "The Clay Bridge," a cheerful, color-infused mixed-media painting that celebrates both an Indian clay pot and a proper English teapot. Photographer Ken Matesich, a long-ago Tucson Weekly photog, made a cyanotype of flowers. Velo, known for her dreamy pinhole photos, nowadays works both the traditional and contemporary ends of photography. For her piece, she started out with pinhole shots of English gravestones, but she pushed it into the latest of tech, taking it through various manipulations in the computer, painting it with oils and blowing it up as a giclee print.

"The media of the two groups is pretty close," Velo says. "We have equal numbers of painters, printmakers and photographers."

The show had its genesis back in 2004, when Velo was teaching at Northampton College on a Fulbright exchange. She and Brookes and Fogell, colleagues in the art department, got to wondering whether the art of Tucson and Northampton would look really different when hung side by side.

After all, she says, the two arts communities are nothing alike. Despite the presence of the college, "The arts community there is so minimal. It made me appreciate Tucson. We have lots of galleries."

Velo applied for funding for a dual-nation exhibit, and got grants from the U.S. Embassy in London, the Fulbright Foundation, the Tucson Pima Arts Council and its counterpart in Northampton, among others. The first show opened last August at Gallery 58, a brand-new contemporary art gallery in Northampton.

And did the art from the two countries look different?

"Visually, we thought the art would reflect the colors of the two environments, but that was not the case," Velo reports. "But the British work is more formal, with respect to elements of composition, to texture and to placement of objects. The Tucson artists are more expressive and responsive."

Here's a guide to the other art galleries open for Art Safari, this Saturday night, Feb. 4.

Conrad Wilde Gallery, 210 N. Fourth Ave., next door to The Drawing Studio. Artist and proprietor Miles Conrad has been running this new space since September, staging well-thought-out contemporary exhibitions. This time around, he turns his eye on his own work, patterned sculptures that innovatively join beeswax, pigments and industrial materials. The Art Safari party is 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday. Show continues 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays, through Feb. 28. 622-8997,

Dinnerware Contemporary Arts, in its new home in the Steinfeld Warehouse at 101 W. Sixth St., at the intersection with Ninth Avenue, opens a group show appropriately called Home. It offers up painting, photography, mixed media, performance and installation work by artists who call Tucson home--Gina Cestaro, Chris Dacre, Kristin Skees and Shannon Smith--and by New York artist Haejae Lee and Miami artist Kerry Phillips. The reception is 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday. The show runs noon to 5 p.m., Wednesdays-Saturdays, through Feb. 25. 792-4503;

Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop, 222 E. Sixth St. Muralist David Tineo, who's made his mark on buildings all around Tucson, including the Tucson Museum of Art, gets solo treatment in Gems From Our Collection, a group show of Raices Taller artists and invited guests. Raices does Safari up right, celebrating in the afternoon from 1 to 5, and in the evening from 7 to 10. The show continues viewing 1 to 5 p.m., every Friday and Saturday, through Feb. 25. 882-5335,

Platform Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., at Sixth Street. Platform is also bridging cultures, but it's less a matter of geography than genres: art and poetry. Thirteen poets match their writing with the work of 13 visual artists in an exhibition cleverly titled Show and Tell. Also, California artist Michelle Masour goes solo in the South Gallery. The Art Safari party is 6 to 9 p.m. The show goes on from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays, through March 4. 882-3886;

FALA Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 187, at Sixth Street, unbuttons two Buttons in the dual show Walking Through. Melissa Button paints on wood panels, creating imaginary landscapes that include elements of nature and architecture. Photographer Eric Button uses real Arizona sunsets as the backdrop for his fake desert dunes, composed entirely of breakfast cereal. FALA parties from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday. The Buttons exhibition continues 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays, through March 8. 628-4183;

Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. Sixth St. Painter James Cook and sculptor Mark Rossi join forces for their third exhibition of Arizona and the West. Cook uses a palette knife to whip up delicious buttery landscapes that appeal both to cowboy art lovers and contempo-philes. Rossi goes more traditional, crafting life-size (and larger) animals in bronze. The land and its animals will be celebrated at a Safari reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays; show closes March 8. 624-0595;

The following galleries are open only in the afternoon on the day of Art Safari.

Philabaum Glass Studio and Showroom, 711 S. Sixth Ave. Down in the old original Philabaum outpost, artists are still blowing glass in the "glory hole" furnace. Visitors can watch them at work, and also look at an exhibition, VitreoGraphs: Prints From the Littleton Collection, featuring prints that were made on glass plates. There's no evening reception, but the studio/showroom will be open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday. VitreoGraphs, which was at the St. Philip's location last summer, remains up indefinitely. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays. 884-7404;

Joseph Gross Gallery, southeast corner of Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard, UA campus. The giant sculptures in Material Terrain investigate the intersections between the natural and the constructed worlds. Part of a traveling show that also spills into the University of Arizona Museum of Art and outside onto the campus, Material Terrain will be open only during the day. But hunters in Art Safari can track down the outdoor works by night. They're mostly along Park Avenue near the museums, and on University Boulevard, on the campus proper. The indoor shows continue through March 19, the outdoor shows through April 2. Joseph Gross is open noon to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays. 626-4215; UAMS is open noon to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays-Fridays. 621-7567;

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