Four Chambers Literary Magazine Is a Pleasant, Thought-Provoking Read

Categories: Literary, Review

Lynn Trimble
Four Chambers issues spotted at Stinkweeds on Small Business Saturday last month.
Shoving your nose in a favorite bit of reading material is a beloved coping mechanism this time of year, so we're tickled with the timing of the latest issue of Four Chambers, released in October.

The Four Chambers folk, who are based in Phoenix, describe their work as an "independent community literary magazine." They're all about raising the visibility of literary arts and increasing community engagement with the local literary scene.

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Ballet Arizona Struggles to Find The Nutcracker Sweet Spot This Holiday Season

Categories: Dance, Review

Lynn Trimble
Marzipan scene in the Ballet Arizona production of The Nutcracker.
Those attending this year's opening night performance of Ballet Arizona's The Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Ib Andersen, must have thought they'd been treated to a two-for-one special.

The ballet we witnessed during the first act bore little resemblance to the ballet we watched during the second -- leaving us eager to ask: Will the real Nutcracker please stand up?

There is no "real" production of The Nutcracker, of course. It's been performed countless ways by all sorts of companies through the years. It premiered in Russia in 1892, choreographed by Marius Petipa, who commissioned Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky to write the music.

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Stray Cat Theatre's Year of the Rooster: A Rough-and-Tumble Love Story in Tempe

Categories: Review, Theater

John Groseclose
Katie McFadzen, Austin Kiehle, and Ron May in Year of the Rooster.

Year of the Rooster, now crowing its head off at Stray Cat Theatre, serves up a compelling theatrical medley of black comedy, tough characters, and pretty pathos. Intelligently handled by young playwright Eric Dufault, this angst-drenched story is presented by a quartet of characters who demonstrate what happens when pain and longing spin out of control, and is nudged along by a talking bird who, as played by Austin Kiehle, is some kind of revelation.

There are several shattering moments and grown-up revelations, but Dufault doesn't make his play into either a catechism lesson on public morality or a sermon against cruelty to animals. He is, it eventually becomes clear, exploring the damage done to boys with lousy fathers. The director is Michael Peck, who nurtures this rough-and-tumble tale, turning it into a love story told by people most of us wouldn't like to know.

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Center Dance Ensemble's Snow Queen Is a Pre-Frozen Winter Tradition in Phoenix

Categories: Dance, Review

Tim Fuller
Amber Robins (Snow Queen) perform in Center Dance Ensemble's Snow Queen.
Fans of Disney's 2013 film Frozen take note: Center Dance Ensemble has been telling the Hans Christian Andersen tale that inspired the movie for more than 20 years in a production called Snow Queen.

Performances continue through Sunday, December 21, at Herberger Theater Center, where CDE is the resident dance company. It's directed and choreographed by CDE artistic director Frances Smith Cohen. Susan Silverman, who heads the Dance Theater West studio and is related to New Times' Amy Silverman, is assistant director/choreographer.

Frozen explores the divergent lives of two sisters, including one who becomes the icy, isolated Snow Queen. But there's double the sister power in Cohen's Snow Queen, which has sisters representing each of the four seasons.

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Grid Bikes Make Sharing Suck Less in Phoenix

Zaida Dedolph
Grid Bikes hubs have popped up all over Central Phoenix, and will come to Mesa and Tempe in 2015.

Phoenix's new bike share program, Grid Bikes, launched in late November -- just in time for absolutely gorgeous cycling weather and holiday visitors. Jackalope Ranch was there, of course, to take a test ride.

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George Morrison Retrospective "Modern Spirit" Takes the Long View at Phoenix's Heard Museum

Categories: Review, Visual Art

Collection Minnesota Museum of American Art. Museum Purchase.
Spirit Path, New Day, Red Rock Variation: Lake Superior Landscape by George Morrison (Chippewa), 1990, acrylic and pastel on paper, 22 1/2 x 30 1/8 in.

The Heard Museum long has been a staple for entertaining swarms of holiday visitors intrigued by katsina dolls and turquoise jewelry. But that's a cop-out. There's far more to the landscape of American Indian artwork, as evidenced by the Heard's newest exhibition, "Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison." The exhibition, which helps to dispel stereotypes about Native art, highlights 80 works by Minnesota-born Morrison, a 20th-century painter and sculptor affiliated with the abstract expressionism movement.

When the National Museum of the American Indian opened a decade ago in Washington, D.C., its inaugural exhibition was "Native Modernism: The Art of George Morrison and Allan Houser." It's evidence of Morrison's significance in the pantheon of American Indian artists and a reminder that Native art extends beyond pottery and baskets. Still, many who readily recognize works by Houser, including his Earth Song sculpture at the Heard's entrance, don't know a Morrison piece when they see one.

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"Shifting Sands" Transports Viewers to Middle East at ASU Art Museum

Categories: Review, Visual Art

Courtesy of the artist and Galeria SENDA.
Isabel Rocamora, "Horizon of Exile," U.K., 2007. (detail of film still). Dual channel film for installation, 16 mm transferred to digital.

It's dark.

The walls are black, the carpeting is black, and even the beanbags offered as seating are black. This dark environment pulls you in as you pass by. It's hard to ignore the images on the screens and the sounds of revving engines and children screaming.

This is the opening scene to "Shifting Sands: Recent Videos from the Middle East" at the ASU Art Museum. The exhibition presents the film and video works of four international artists in their quest to show the changing cultural, political, and geographical environments across the Middle Eastern landscape.

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RAW Phoenix's CURRENT at Monarch Theatre: Refreshing, Despite Underwhelming Visual Art

Photo by Zaida Dedolph; Styled by Sophia Idowu
Sophia Idowu's hair and makeup show featured goddess-like golden accents and shimmering natural makeup.

RAW:Natural Born Artists is an international organization that aims to unite local fashion designers, musicians, and artists of all ilks. Their most recent Phoenix showcase, entitled CURRENT (yes, all caps) made its way to the Monarch Theatre on November 19. We were there to check it out.

There was something refreshing about CURRENT. RAW was established to help creatives with less than 10 years of experience succeed by providing exposure, community, and support. Some of the works featured were clearly by amateurs; others demonstrated a higher level of sophistication. While there were certainly some ubiquitous visual art exhibitions (can we just get over photographing desert landscapes and vintage signs? Please?), there were plenty of others that were visually striking, intellectually compelling, or simply beautiful.

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Richard T. Walker Disrupts the Notion of the Sublime at ASU Art Museum in Tempe

Categories: Review, Visual Art

Mikey Estes
Richard T. Walker embodies and disrupts the Romantic archetype of man contemplating the landscape.

Upon entering Richard T. Walker's exhibition "the predicament of always (as we are)" at ASU Art Museum, the viewer is immersed in sound. Sound sculptures utilizing neon, keyboards, guitars, and rocks surround the space, and a two-channel video, from which the exhibition gets its name, is projected on the back wall. The artist, wearing a red t-shirt and dark jeans, is sitting in the White Sands National Monument in solitude, his back to us as he contemplates the scene and records himself talking on a cassette tape.

At times, the recording is muffled by wind and it becomes obvious that Walker's speech is not rehearsed. What he's saying is honest, personal, and raw. It's almost as if this tape was meant to be sent to someone close to the artist. While he is recording his thoughts, it's hard to not become immersed in your own. The viewer begins to embody this everyman role and becomes a part of the landscape. Even though the artist is alone during his journey through the desert, it's as if we are a part of it, too.

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40Owls Pop-up Gallery in Phoenix Presents Fortoul Brothers' Polished Primitivism

Categories: Review, Visual Art

Lynn Trimble
Opening reception for "Fortoul Brothers: Solo Exhibition" in Phoenix.
Before seeing the solo Fortoul Brothers exhibition inside a pop-up gallery in Phoenix, we never wondered what a cosmic stew of Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, and Steve Jobs might look like. But now we think we know, thanks to Friday, November 14's opening reception for a seamless mix of art with commerce best described as "polished primitivism."

It's the work of artist Isaac Fortoul and his older brother Gabriel, who wears both manager and curator hats. They describe themselves as "two Columbian brothers born and raised in the outskirts of New York City." Think Union City, New Jersey. For a time they lived in Phoenix, but it's been seven years since they exhibited works here.

In the interim, they've shown work in and beyond NYC, and established a "nomadic gallery" that takes art and merchandise on the road. They dubbed it 40Owls, playing with the phonetic pronunciation of their last name. By removing the space between the digit and the letter "O" that follows, they've mirrored the infinity symbol that's a common thread woven within much of their work.

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