Local Palette

Apprentices of the Masters

Valley View Elementary Students

Galerie Bleux
through mid-February

I noticed two particularly unusual things about this art opening: RC Cola and cookies were served instead of the standard wine and cheese fare, and I stumbled over two of the artists because I didn't look down. Such is the scene when a group of elementary school kids exhibit their art work. An all-too-rare scene, I'd say. How refreshing it is to see creativity in its early form, before it is sifted through the stress of becoming a big person.

This exhibit is a veritable fun house, with vibrant, energetic paintings and papier-mâché figures dangling from the ceiling and clinging to walls. Boxers, gymnasts, and angels seem a favorite model for the little sculptors and painters, though many students took the self-portrait route. One common trait from piece to piece: a mixture of colors to rival the rainbow.

The kids weren't simply given paint-drenched brushes and told to give it a go. They were schooled in the elements and principles of art and taught the styles of various famous artists; Picasso's influence comes through in the innumerable double-faced portraits. Many of the works are surprisingly evocative and complex; perhaps more than the artists themselves can comprehend.

"I like for these children to have this kind of experience," says Marolyn Upshaw-Lynch, one of the art teachers. "Just like a performance for music students, or a game for a child in sports -- you go to the gallery to experience your artwork. It's a huge self-image builder." That these children were encouraged to explore themselves and their world through artwork is wonderful; that they were able to exhibit their work in a full-fledged gallery is... well, you could see the delight on their proud, little faces.

Voices and Visions

Regina Vater and David Medalla

Mexic-Arte Museum
through March 8

Swimming against the Tide, by Regina Vater
Walking through this exhibit is kind of like walking on a rocking, buoyant ship. The sound of the creaking wood floors as people traipse across them, combined with the sublime fluidity of the artists' installations, gives this gallery experience the essence of swaying atop the big blue ocean. This is one of those shows that works on many levels: the pieces are stunning, the artists' styles blend together beautifully, and the gallery space seems tailor-made for their installations.

That's saying a lot, since Medalla's installations usually find their home on the streets of London. Most of his installations -- including his colossal bubble-making machines -- are either too large or too ephemeral to place in a gallery, so smaller renderings take their place here. These painted, enlarged, color-copied photos cannot convey the grandiosity of Medalla's full-scale work, but they are a hypnotic treat. The gallery's earth-tone walls propel the works' brilliant blues and greens into the room, radiating a kinetic energy. One small-scale Medalla bubble machine sits in the room, gurgling and spewing fluffy white bubbles as a video shows some of his more elaborate machines.

Vater's works are somewhat more composed. Swimming Against the Tide is a video installation, with a small white television resting on a white pillar. Surrounding these components are rocks of varying sizes, suspended by string tied through their natural holes. It looks like a tiny meteor shower descending on the TV. Seek the Unseen and Beauty Will Appear is a series of water-filled glasses that convey a hidden message you can decipher, if you take a close look.

For years, both these artists have been proponents of "awareness of the creative process," on their part as well as the viewer's.This show does a fine job in encouraging the viewer to do his or her part. -- Cari Marshall

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