Unconventional Indian art on display in Mesa - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

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Posted: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:00 pm | Updated: 5:55 am, Mon Oct 11, 2010.

Chances are you haven’t seen Native American art like this before.

In three new shows opening Friday at Mesa Contemporary Arts, the subterranean galleries at Mesa Arts Center, Tewa heroes face off against conquistadors on a mock comic book cover dated 1696, and a Native American guitarist gives a glimpse of a parallel music industry, where hitmaker Bruce Springsteen is a Luiseno Indian.

“When people think of American Indian art, it’s typically kachinas or turquoise jewelry or woven rugs or baskets that come to mind,” says Patty Haberman, MCA curator. “What we have here are artists who use traditional materials or techniques in a completely new way or work in forms, like photography or printmaking, that you don’t immediately think of as Native American art.”

A free opening reception for the exhibitions starts at 7 p.m. Friday. Several artists will attend the event, mingling with and answering questions for visitors, and the R. Carlos Nakai Trio will perform in the MCA courtyard. A cash bar will be available.

Meanwhile, at ground level, musicians will play live throughout the Mesa Arts Center campus as part of the venue’s free Season Kick-off Party. The festivities include a video preview of coming attractions in the center’s Ikeda Theater, performances by troupes such as Southwest Shakespeare Company and East Valley Children’s Theatre, live art demonstrations, a jewelry trunk show, and food and drink vendors.

Among the artists at the reception will be San Diego-area artist James Luna, whose “All Indian All The Time” exhibition converts gallery space into a “faux rock-and-roll museum,” says Haberman.

“He has a humorous, kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to things, with photos of him dressed as a lounge singer and Jimi Hendrix and music videos on a big TV screen, but he’s also bringing up serious issues and making you realize that in popular contemporary music, there aren’t a lot of big-name Native American artists,” she says.

Other attendees include Mario Martinez, a Yaqui Indian from New York City who grew up in Scottsdale and created the colorful abstract works in “From AZ to NYC: A Visual Journey,” and several artists from the third show, “Transcending Traditions: Contemporary American Indian Artwork.” That exhibition features multiple works from more than 25 artists who work in a range of mediums.

“We have a huge Native American presence in Arizona, yet I don’t think a lot of this kind of work has been shown,” says Haberman. “We’ve been fortunate enough to find some really fabulous, really different works that happen to be made by Native Americans who are maybe drawing on their customs and heritage but in a totally non-traditional way. There are a lot of pieces that make you ponder and ask questions and others that you just don’t want to stop looking at.”

If you go

What: Mesa Arts Center Season Kick-Off Party and Mesa Contemporary Arts Fall Exhibitions Opening Reception

When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.

Cost: Free

Information: (480) 644-6500 or www.mesaartscenter.com

MAC Season Kick-off Party entertainment lineup

Ikeda Theater

- 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Performing Live 2010-11 Season highlights video and welcome from Cindy Ornstein, the city’s new Arts & Culture Director.

- 6:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sonoran Desert Chorale performs

- 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mesa Sister Cities Association presents “The Colors of Peace,” featuring diverse global performances

Ikeda Theater Lobby

- 7:30 p.m. Award-winning recording artist Jana Mashonee, who headlines Saturday night in the Ikeda Theater, signs copies of her new novel, “American Indian Story: The Adventures of Sha’kona.”

Piper Theater

- 7 p.m. to 8:40 p.m. Southwest Shakespeare Company, East Valley Children’s Theatre and Metropolitan Youth Symphony perform

North Stage

- 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Estun-Bah perform Native American music and dance

Wells Fargo Garden

- 7:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Aaron White and Anthony Wakeman Duo perform new Southwest music

Mesa Contemporary Arts Courtyard

- 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The R. Carlos Nakai Trio performs

Mesa Contemporary Arts

- 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fall exhibitions opening reception and Shonton Canyon Jewelry trunk show

Art Studios

- 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Art Studio demonstrations

More to do this weekend in Mesa

What: Downtown’s monthly Second Friday Night Out festival features a classic car show, fire equipment exhibitions, live bands, artists’ booths and special offerings from merchants and restaurants.

When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Along Main Street, between Country Club Drive and Center Street, in downtown Mesa

Cost: Free

Information: www.2ndFridayNightOut.com

* * *

What: ENCREDICON, a mini convention that spotlights local comic book artists and writers in downtown Mesa’s edgiest shop also features a sci-fi fashion show and screening of the indie sci-fi movie “Sacrifice.”

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Evermore Nevermore, 127 W. Main St., Mesa

Cost: Free

Information: (480) 964-4624 or http://www.evermorenevermore.com

Jana Mashonee

What: Eight-time Native American Music Award winner and Grammy-nominated pop singer Jana Mashonee racked up a few big dance hits in the late 1990s and early 2000s — including a remake of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” — making her the first American Indian woman to land on the Billboard dance charts. She performs fan favorites and songs from her latest album, “New Moon Born.”

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.

Cost: $28

Information: (480) 644-6500 or www.mesaartscenter.com

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