Time to (Art) Cruise

The ever-changing downtown/Warehouse Arts District gallery community celebrates the unofficial start of summer

The Summer Art Cruise on Saturday night will be the final port of call for Platform Gallery.

"We're shutting down," says Jason Williamson, manager of the 6-year-old gallery, prominently located at the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue. "Not a lot of people are buying art."

For the Summer Art Cruise—when a dozen galleries in the Central Tucson Gallery Association open their doors at the same time—Platform will sell its remaining art at a 25 percent discount.

"We have 100 pieces or more," Williamson notes, including geometric paintings by Santa Fe artist Jesse Wood, up-close photos of plants by Bisbee photog Sandy Upson, and dreamlike acrylics by Cecile Amor, a Parisian painter now living in Tucson. Like most of the participating galleries, Platform will stage a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday; 439 N. Sixth Ave.; 882-3886; platformart.com.

Santa Theresa Tile Works has also vacated its store in the Sixth and Sixth building, but the business is still going, in a different space across the street.

"The economic downturn pushed us over here," says tile artist and gallery proprietor Susan Gamble. "It's a smaller space."

The entrance to the new store is on the south side of the large red-brick building housing Wheat Scharf landscape architects, Raices Taller 222 and La Malinche studios. The gallery showcases works by Gamble, a prizewinning public artist, and others, including Morad Jasim, the gifted young tile artist who makes traditional Ottoman work. Reception 6 to 9 p.m.; 440 N. Sixth Ave.; 623-8640; santatheresatileworks.com.

Other galleries are still in their familiar storefronts in the neighborhood, informally called the Warehouse Arts District. Michael Contreras of the eponymous Contreras Gallery says his gallery has weathered the recession by selling handmade jewelry alongside fine art. "The jewelry is helping us," says Contreras, a member of a well-known jewelry-making family. "We've been here at this location two years. I'm happy. I think we've gotten through the hard part."

For the Summer Art Cruise, Contreras opens My CIRCUX, a solo show by Martín Quintanilla, a Mexican-born painter noted for his fantasy streetscapes. The new work is a collection of acrylic paintings and linocuts around the theme of the circus.

"It's lighthearted and comical," Contreras says. Reception 6 to 10 p.m.; 110 E. Sixth St.; 398-6557; contrerashousefineart.com.

Miles Conrad has reason to be happy, too. After Conrad Wilde Gallery endured a burglary in March, artists in the community donated works to raise money to pay back the artists whose works were stolen. Sales of the donated art more than made up the difference, Conrad says.

"We did really well," he says happily. "We're in the process of writing checks" to the artists.

With security newly beefed up in the building, Conrad Wilde on Saturday night debuts a solo show for Emilia Arana. A native of Nogales, Ariz., Arana makes colorful encaustic paintings, drawing on a "tradition of lyrical abstraction. She'll show probably about a dozen works, some really large-scale, some small-scale." Reception 6 to 9 p.m.; 439 N. Sixth Ave.; 622-8997; conradwildegallery.com.

In between Wilde and Contreras, Davis Dominguez continues with its annual small works show, this year titled Small Things Considered. (See "Sizeys Time!" Visual Arts, May 27.) The main gallery gives a précis of regular-sized works by gallery regulars. The reception here shuts down early, running from 6 to 8 p.m.; 154 E. Sixth St.; 629-9759; davisdominguez.com.

Downtown, The Drawing Studio is fresh from its recent triumph at the Governor's Arts Awards, where it won the Community Award. Fittingly, the current show, The Connecting Spirit, gathers together works by the gallery's associate members, including students and faculty members. Juried by ceramicist Thomas Kerrigan, it has "some great 3-D stuff," says the gallery's Melinda Parris, along with drawings, paintings, prints and encaustic works. Reception 6 to 9 p.m.; 33 S. Sixth Ave.; 620-0947; thedrawingstudio.org.

Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery won't be open for the evening gala, but from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., art-lovers can sail on in to see Tom Philabaum's "precarious rocks" in Tom Rocks On. The sculptural glass pieces are luminously colored assemblages of ovals the size of ostrich eggs. And, yes, they're precariously balanced, in compositions that appear to violate the laws of physics; 711 S. Sixth Ave.; 884-7404; philabaumglass.com.

Dinnerware Artspace and Central Arts, both lately of Congress Street, have now decamped to the Citizens Warehouse Building, best known as the home of BICAS. Five by Five exhibits works by five Tucson artists—Ruth Hillman, Gary Mackender, Heather Wodrich, Anthony Rosano and Roberta Gentry—interpreting the works of five Japanese artists. Upstairs at 44 W. Sixth St.; both 869-3166; dinnerwarearts.com. (Call for exact reception hours.)

Citizens also houses a new gallery. Balancing out the loss of Platform, Fragment Gallery opened in April with a mission of showing "high lowbrow" art. People think outsider art is "lower-quality, not ready for the mainstream," says director Mark Matlock. "High lowbrow" is equally rebellious, but "higher quality and technically proficient."

Saturday night will close Fragment's Fertile Ground, a show of eight artists, including Mary Theresa Dietz, who makes bold animal paintings in vibrant colors, and Ruben Urrea Moreno, whose work is inspired partly by Mexican folk traditions but is "very modern." Reception 6 to 9 p.m.; 44 W. Sixth St.; 310-8788; fragmentgallery.com.

Bride Time

June is the month of brides, and Pauline Pedregon celebrates with "Click With Your Heels," an extraordinary bride made of papier maché and the crumpled pages of romance novels. The keynote figure in Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres, a show of women's art at Raices Taller 222, "Click" dangles from a wire on the ceiling and slowly turns in the breeze.

There's no bride inside this dress, though a wreath and a veil suggest where her head should be, and the form-fitting paper gown conjures up her missing body. The absence of a real woman is the point: The romance novels whose pages are fashioned into ruffles on the dress are about fantasy women leading fantasy lives.

Pedregon has made her dress with care, honoring traditional sewing crafts and the women who laboriously made clothes for their families. Ana Paulina Padilla, a Yuma photographer, pays homage to her own mother in "Mi Má Dress," a snowy-white apron made of sewn-together handkerchiefs. Patchworked onto the apron are old sepia photos printed on cloth, of Padilla as a child in her ruffled finery, and gathered into her mother's loving arms.

Women's lives and rituals get top billing in this show of 80 artists. For sure, though, some works are gender-neutral. Lisa Marie Barber's "Column Girl" is a wildly inventive ceramic. The seated figure, inspired by pre-Columbian art, sits cross-legged on the pillar, solemn as can be, but paint drips everywhere, joyfully sloppy in rainbow blues and yellows.

Still, textiles dominate. Gloria Wadlow, showing her work in a gallery for the first time, relies on the unusual medium of the quilted potholder to investigate human sorrows. Her "Pray for Us" consists of four homemade potholders strung together vertically, and with black net, buttons and bows.

At the top is a Virgin of Guadalupe; next is a roadside shrine. No. 3 is a grim nighttime piece about war, complete with a weeping eye and a patriotic set of red, white and blue star buttons.

At bottom is a wonderful landscape of the borderlands, split in two by the border wall. A length of brown cloth representing that barrier rambles diagonally across the desert, rendered by peach-colored cloth. Stitched clouds float above in a blue sky, and a small brown quilted figure runs to the north.

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