Waves in a Storm 

This year's summer art cruise brings together eight galleries for a day of openings--including one gallery's finale

Just in time for the 2004 Summer Art Cruise, Joanne Kerrihard has painted a pair of beautiful boats.

Her "Summer II" and "Summer III" hang at the entrance to Davis Dominguez Gallery, flagship of this Saturday night's arts extravaganza, when eight central Tucson galleries open their doors. The two oils on canvas are gorgeous explorations of seashore colors, with "II" a bevy of beach browns and golds, and "III" leaning toward the ocean's blues, greens and purples. Kerrihard had the prestigious Stonewall show at the Tucson Museum of Art a few years back, and some naysayers grumbled then that she was not yet ready for a museum show. Those critics ought to go have a look at these two paintings. She has plunged into a whole new--and wonderful--phase.

Besides Kerrihard, Davis Dominguez is exhibiting some 59 other artists in its Small Works Invitational. For this always-entertaining annual show, artists are asked to work in a format roughly 12 to 18 inches square; the forced compression typically makes for full-strength pieces. Nancy Tokar Miller's comely yellow abstraction, "Dance," pairs dandelion curves with brilliant green and bright blue. In "Long Story," packed with musical kids, contentious cats and a leering red wolf, Monika Rossa has painted a big drama in a small space. Likewise, Paris-based artist Jan Olsson fits a pair of angularly abstract figures into a tight urban space in "Open Book."

Photographer Ann Simmons-Myers was lately in the news for her Memorial Day photo event commemorating the American war dead in Iraq. On that hot morning, she draped hundreds of volunteers in American flags and photographed them in a field in various positions, representing the living, the wounded and the dead. Here, she exhibits a work less wrenching, but still in line with her usual preoccupation with the figure in the landscape. The untitled pigmented photo pictures a naked figure crouched over in the cool waters of a creek.

Simmons-Myers and Kerrihard may be among the few working a water theme, but they join a virtual fleet of Tucson artists displaying their works this weekend. With the simultaneous openings, corresponding with the Poetry Crawl (see sidebar) and assorted Art in the City activities, the eight galleries offer a reminder that the town's art doesn't go away in the summer, even if the townsfolk are plotting to get to a beach not unlike Kerrihard's painted ones.

Gallery participants, mostly members of the Central Tucson Gallery Association, include Raices Taller, Dinnerware, the Drawing Studio, Metroform and Davis Dominguez, all in the Warehouse District or on nearby Fourth Avenue, and 3Falk Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Studio 180 Fine Art downtown. The Art Cruise is meant to be festive, but it inadvertently serves as a barometer of the shifting fortunes of Tucson's art scene. For Metroform, unfortunately, the occasion is its final cruise. The fine little photography gallery run by Scott Baker is closing its doors, though Baker intends to continue on as a private dealer.

"I loved having him as a neighbor," gallerist Mike Dominguez said. "He ran a great space." But times have been tough the last few years, he added, even at an established gallery like his own. Uptown galleries Vanier, Ratliff and Victoria Boyce have all closed their Tucson doors. "Business is uneven, like waves in a storm," he added.

Downtown's 3Falk Gallery is coasting along just fine, reported Jason Falk, a painter who co-owns the gallery with his mother, Melba. They've been in business about three years, first in Tubac, then in Tucson's Dunbar Springs neighborhood, and finally alighting downtown in a space with a history of galleries past, including Bero and Daryl Childs.

"The first three years of a gallery are really hard," Falk said. "The hardest thing is getting good, responsible artists who are positive networkers. We've built up (a stable of) about 15 artists. Now it's coming together. We're proud that we've managed to grow."

For the Art Cruise, 3Falk is showing a mix of eight gallery artists, from out of town and in. Among them is Mauricio Toussaint, who is showing his mixed-media encaustics inspired by traditional Mexican imagery. Local painter Cristina Cardenas is exhibiting three oils on board, including the luscious "Agua (Water)," a warm painting of a sun-kissed female nude. Gwyneth Scally, whose cool art is a decided contrast to Cardenas' heat, displays eight oils on board. "Stretch," a large two-panel work, doubles a portrait of the artist.

Santa Fe artist Jesse Wood paints bright house geometries. His four carefully composed oils bristle with vertical walls and sloping roofs. Jason Falk likes his geometrics more abstract and his color schemes offbeat. Each of his six Mondrian-like oils on birch board is a collection of carefully laid out squares and oblongs in combos like lime with orange.

The Museum of Contemporary Art downtown on Toole is exhibiting Tomorrow's MOCA: New Voices/New Visions, a show of architectural design ideas for the museum. Students in the UA's Preservation Studies program took on the real-life challenge of coming up with ways to renovate MOCA's rickety warehouse into a gleaming art center. The show offers up their brainstorms.

The Drawing Studio also takes a look at Tucson architecture, with paintings of the city's barrios, downtown and Fourth Avenue by an assortment of artists. Three galleries mounted shows that are playful counterpoints to Davis Dominguez's Small Works. Studio 180 Fine Art Gallery's group exhibition is called XXL (Extra-Extra Large). Raices Taller, cheerfully pugnacious, named its show Mas Grande Que El de Ellos (Bigger Than Theirs). Dinnerware also launches a riposte, christening its invitational The Brightest and Best Small Works.

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