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West Austin Studio Tour

The second WEST provides a journey of creative wonders

By Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., April 26, 2013

<i>Mahatma Gandhi</i>, by Stefanie Distefano
Mahatma Gandhi, by Stefanie Distefano

Here comes the second year of WEST, the West Austin Studio Tour, in which the general public is invited to explore the dozens and dozens of participating visual-art studios west of I-35 (and east of MoPac, south of Highway 183, north of Ben White). WEST is organized by Big Medium, the creative team who runs the Texas Biennial and who've brought us the East Austin Studio Tour for more than a decade now. The far-flung array of studios for WEST, featuring a diversity of art styles and methods and mediums, will be open over the next two weekends – April 27-28 and May 4-5, 11am-6pm – and during that time many of them will feature special installations and demonstrations, maybe some live music and refreshments, and, oh, who knows what other manner of surprises (beyond the art itself) might be in store for those citizens culturally wise enough to visit stops along this free, curated journey?

Details about the participating artists and studios are available online, of course – www.west.bigmedium.org – and the beautifully designed print-edition catalogs are available at grayDUCK Gallery, 608 W. Monroe, and Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca. But we're not going to just let you go from here without offering a few recommendations. Although the bounty displayed in the WEST catalog suggests that every studio listed is worthy of a visit, in case you're feeling a bit daunted by the vastness of it all, we'd like to point out four places that we think will prove especially interesting and edifying.

FlamingO Ranch, 402 El Paso

This is the home studio of Stefanie Distefano, the woman responsible for the tile-and-mirror-shard mosaics of the Virgen de Guadalupe and Gandhi at East First Grocery, the Flamingo Mitote at Patterson Park, and the beauty covering the entire El Paso Street Bridge, among other scintillating works. A visit here will allow you to witness that very bridge, as well as the artist's patio-spanning mosaics and her more practical, unshattered ceramics.

The Quiet Room, 2911 Medical Arts #13

We're excited to see Adreon Henry's return to the painstaking weaving of materials and explorations of pattern and color that comprise this new show for WEST. Simultaneously embodying vivid graphic immediacy and venerable crafting traditions, these bright abstracts are a treasure for lovers of paint, print, and process. Also, shhhh: "The Quiet Room will be staged with an improvised soundscape, ambient lighting, and other sensory enhancements ... Viewers will be asked to turn off their electronic devices and remain silent."

Blackbox, 1017-A W. Milton

Talk about art marriages made in heaven; here's you some ocular proof. Painter Stella Alesi, acclaimed for her large photorealist works of botanical diversity and more, has lately turned her expert brush to oil-based interpretations of wheels and mandalas from Eastern religious traditions, often using more colors than you'd think the spectrum could hold, and it's a viewer's holy good fortune to see these up close. Leon Alesi, portrait photographer, shoots his subjects – musicians, writers, artists – in their private environments, and the images of his "Personal Space" series offer rare visions of connection, vulnerability, and intimacy that only a master of light and lenses could capture so well.

Art.Science.Gallery., 1904 St. Albans

This new pop-up venue is "dedicated to art-science fusion of all kinds," a mission we admire with Darwinian fervor. The excellent "Join Our Evolution" group show gathers an array of marvels that show how such fusion can be as visually compelling as it is educationally rich.

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