The Austin Chronicle

The ATX Arts Scene Will Fill Your Saturday but Good

By Wayne Alan Brenner, July 22, 2015, 10:00am, All Over Creation

Even though my art-soaked Saturday last Saturday was a damned good time, your Saturday this Saturday can be even better – and here's how.

Last Saturday's journey started with the reception for Penny Van Horn's "You Lookin' at ME?" show at Salvage Vanguard Theater's lobby gallery, where the artist's painted portraits fill the giraffe-tall walls. Having been a fan of Van Horn's work since she was part of that whole Twisted Sisters crowd promoted by Fantagraphics back in the day, having enjoyed her distinctive scratchboard cartoons that also improved pages of The Austin Chronicle in the late 80s and early 90s, I wasn't ready for the array of oversized, color-flooded faces arranged for maximum impact on the lobby walls. Wasn't ready for them, but still reeled happily in their vivid presence surrounding the opening party's noisy crowd.

This coming Saturday, the alcohol-fueled artist's reception is long over, but those Penny Van Horn portraits are still in SVT's lobby, awaiting a chance to return the pleasure of your stare. Note: They'll be there through August 8.

And this Saturday there's even more reason to visit the SVT space: It's the opening of Paper Chairs' Mast, the new play from Elizabeth Doss & company, and it'll be brightening the venue's mainstage with the story of "a nuclear family, born of WWII, as it blows apart over the globe."

[Note: I haven't seen the world-premiere Mast yet, so there's no review but a Good Premonition to offer. But having visited the set during rehearsal, tell you what: Just the look of that painted floor and backdrop, the starkly nautical crows-nest rising from the stage's polychrome plain … Scenic Designer Lisa Laratta has conjured a proving ground that's like an art installation all its own, even before the players (and musician Mark Stewart) bring it to life as directed by Diana Lynn Small.]

And, ah, what else did I see that's still around for your own edification & entertainment?

Bugs, dear reader, bugs. Photographs by Michelle Dapra Atkinson currently parade across the long walls of the Butridge Gallery in the Dougherty Arts Center, offering astonishing views of insects and arachnids and, often, the floral infrastructure upon which they perch. If you're a fan of dragonflies – as so many otherwise bug-hating people seem to be – you'll love this exhibition. And if you give a happy damn about arthropods in general, you'll be impressed by Atkinson's shots of a Green Lynx Spider, a perfectly framed Harvestman, and a Golden-Eyed Lacewing in particular. Note: This show is up through August 16.

Meanwhile, at Women & Their Work, Kira Lynn Harris hasn't hung anything on the verticals inside this elegant gallery. No, she's taken her chalks directly to the walls – walls first painted a uniform black – and created nighttime cityscapes that speak of metropolitan futures from the likes of Blade Runner and Neuromancer, soaring portions of our deepest urban fantasies now rendered in minimalist light-studded outlines from floor to ceiling. There's more to the installation, of course, but just the first two walls alone can propel you to a state of nostalgia for what won't exist (outside of Tokyo, NYC, and Dubai, at least?) for decades. And this exhibition? Is up through August 29.

Unlike the imminent Mast at SVT, the show at Hyde Park Theatre has been running for a couple of weeks already. It's The Night Alive, a new work scripted by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, and it was the gritty, briefly violent, and ultimately hopeful drama that brought last Saturday's wandering to a close for me. Luckily, the production is 1) still going on, and 2) we've reviewed it right here, the better to gauge your own cultural options with.

And all of that's to say nothing of the many other worthy diversions around town this coming weekend – the exhibitions at Canopy on the Eastside (with openings at Art.Science.Gallery and Invenio, and the latest offerings from Big Medium and Little Pink Monster and Bone Black Gallery continuing to enthrall), and the graphic video-game wonderments on display at Guzu Gallery, and, in other forms of entertainment, the overabundance of stand-up and sketch and improv comedy in this town.

And supposedly – although perhaps it's just a rumor? – there's a, um, a live-music gig or two somewhere near you?

Don't wear yourself out, though, citizen: We're not even close to the Hot Sauce and Out Of Bounds and Austin City Limits festivals yet …

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