Fritz Dreisbach is an elder statesman of the American glass-art movement—if you can call a guy who regularly manipulates hot glass in a fiery furnace a statesman.
Dreisbach comes to town this Saturday, Feb. 4, as part of the Art Safari gallery openings. He'll kick off an exhibition at the Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery, Glass 30-40-50, which marks not only the 50th anniversary of American fine-art glass, but also the 30th anniversary of the gallery.
"Kick off" may be another poor choice of words, considering that Dreisbach works in nearly every possible configuration of a most-breakable medium. He'll start off the day talking about the history of his art form in a free public lecture at 1 p.m. at the Tucson Museum of Art Education Center auditorium. His title: "Where Were You in '62?"
That's the year Harvey Littleton began teaching glass-blowing classes at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, giving birth to the American studio-glass movement. Now known as the father of glass art, Littleton taught many of today's leading glass artists, including Dale Chihuly, perhaps the best-known glass artist working in America today, as well as Tucson's Tom Philabaum. Along with nine other artists, Chihuly, Philabaum, Littleton and Dreisbach have pieces in the exhibition at Philabaum.
Dreisbach crafts everything from delicate glass goblets to sturdy glass miniatures of trucks. During the Saturday-night opening, in the glass studio adjoining the gallery, Dreisbach will build a glass camper truck, '60s-style, in honor of the anniversary. All of the seats for the demo are spoken for, but people attending the gallery opening may get a few glimpses through the studio window.
Dreisbach's 1 p.m. lecture at TMA, 140 N. Main Ave., is the earliest event in an arts-packed day. The gallery reception at Philabaum, 711 S. Sixth Ave., 884-7404, www.philabaumglass.com, is from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday.
Unless otherwise noted below, the openings at the other galleries on the Art Safari tour will also take place from 6 to 9 p.m. The Central Tucson Gallery Association sponsors the evening, but other galleries also join in on the fun. All the events are free; some galleries ramp things up with live music, wine or food. Conrad Wilde has lined up a food truck with goodies for purchase.
Philabaum is at the southern tip of the downtown-arts habitat, but arts hunters in the safari don't have far to go to find more specimens. The Drawing Studio, 33 S. Sixth Ave., 620-0947, www.thedrawingstudio.org, is just a few blocks north. Its exhibition, Bridges II: An Exchange Exhibition, ponders what happens when artists in the dry desert cross-fertilize ideas with artists in a rainy isle.
The show mixes up 16 artists, Yanks or Brits, and displays their sculptures, prints, drawings, paintings and photographs. Bridges debuted in Northampton, England, last August. Among the Tucson artists is Kathleen Velo, a photographer who helped initiate the exchange when she taught at Northampton University as a Fulbright scholar.
One block north, you can find Atlas Fine Art Services, 41 S. Sixth Ave., 622-2139, the newest downtown gallery and the newest member of the CTGA. Atlas has a group show of works on paper by assorted artists. Owned and operated by two longtime hands on the local gallery scene, James Schaub and Albert Chamillard, Atlas favors contemporary abstraction.
Sacred Machine Gallery, 245 E. Congress St., 777-7403, www.sacredmachine.com, calls itself both a curiosity shop and museum. It is mostly devoted to the strangely religious and mythic paintings by Tucson artist Daniel Martin Diaz.
Stroll on over to the northwest end of the restored train station to see what's up at the fine-crafts gallery Obsidian, 410 N. Toole Ave., 577-3598, www.obsidian-gallery.com. The new show has three ceramics artists all working the theme of Storytelling. Debra Fritts prides herself on naturalistic human figures; Cheryl Tall makes figurative ceramics in color; and George Peñaloza makes wild stoneware fantasies. A couple of years ago in Obsidian's old space, he exhibited a ceramic Egyptian pharaoh flying along on a billiard-ball train.
North of downtown, around Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, old warehouses are rapidly being colonized by art galleries. Conrad Wilde Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., Suite 195, 622-8997, www.conradwildegallery.com, is in a new, smaller space in the historic Firestone building, around the corner from its old storefront. The Seventh Annual Encaustic Invitational exhibits the work of a dozen national and local artists, including gallery regulars Margaret Suchland and Willow Bader. The encaustic artists create sensuous works in wax, blending in paint and pigments to ramp up the color.
During the opening, French chanteuse Elisabeth Blin sings and plays keyboard and guitar. The Foodie Fleet food truck will be parked on the pavement outside, selling gourmet sandwiches and waffles with jam.
Occupying Wilde's old space is Tucson Contemporary Arts, 439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 171, 622-8997, www.tucsoncontemporaryarts.org. The newest venue in this art-dense neighborhood, TCA is a nonprofit members-only gallery. David Clark: Inside Out exhibits one-of-a-kind encaustic paintings on T-shirts. Clark gives a free talk at 5 p.m.; a reception follows from 6 to 9 p.m.
Landscape-painter Duncan Martin showed sumptuous paintings of Baboquivari Peak a few years back at Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. Sixth St., 629-9759, www.davisdominguez.com. This time, he's roamed farther afield for his series Into a Large Place—Paintings of the National Parks. Another gallery artist, sculptor Barbara Jo McLaughlin, also tackles a big theme: The End of Time. Reception is 6 to 8 p.m.
The Western landscape also turns up in traditional watercolors by Frank S. Rose in Frank and Owen Rose: Father and Son at Contreras Gallery, 110 E. Sixth St., 398-6557, www.contrerashousefineart.com. Frank is an author and illustrator (Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona) and a retired pastor. Son Owen has shown traditional Western art in cowboy art galleries in Tucson and Tubac, but for this show, he's deployed his brushes in the service of abstraction, exhibiting giclée reproductions. Reception is 6 to 10 p.m.
One block east, the always-adventurous Raices Taller 222 Gallery, 218 E. Sixth St., 881-5335, raicestaller222.webs.com, has hung a group show, Vicios y Virtudes (Vices and Virtues). Members of the Latino co-op gallery, along with guest artists, use a wide variety of media to examine—and challenge—the vaunted mantra of "personal values."
Behind Raices Taller, Santa Theresa Tile Works, 440 N. Sixth Ave., 623-8640, www.santatheresatileworks.com, showcases colorful tiles designed by public artist Susan Gamble and made in the adjoining workshop. Gamble promises plenty o' tiles in a Valentine's Day theme.
Two college galleries are members of the CTGA. Joseph Gross Gallery at the UA is closed Saturday night, but a gallery at Pima Community College is sometimes open for CTGA events, depending on the availability of student workers. Be sure to call first before heading to the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at the Pima Community College West Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road, 206-6942, www.pima.edu/cfa. A trio of artists exhibit in the current show, East/Pacific/West: Confluence, using Hawaii as a point of reference.
Tucson painter Nancy Tokar Miller's new Hawaiian paintings were inspired by the island of Molokai, which she saw from a helicopter. Claire Campbell Park, a fiber artist and professor at Pima, took a sabbatical in Hawaii in 2010 and incorporated elements of the islands' rich ecology into her newest weavings. The third artist, Mary Babcock, also works in fiber, and lives in Hawaii, where she teaches at the University of Hawaii. Formal opening events, all free, are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9: a gallery talk at 1:30 p.m.; a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.; and a lecture at 7 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Recital Hall.
Over at the University of Arizona, member gallery Joseph Gross, UA Fine Arts Complex, 626-4215; www.cfa.arizona.edu/galleries, is definitely closed Saturday night. The gallery is staging a show of work by former UA professors, intriguingly named The Current Past. Curated by current visual-communications professor Jackson Boelts, the exhibition brings together art by fondly remembered teachers including Bailey Doogan, Harold Jones, Barbara Rogers, Harmony Hammond, Keith McElroy and Judith Golden. You can visit during regular hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, through Feb. 24.