The Urban Loft + Art Tour sponsored by the Asheville Art Museum last week provided an interesting glimpse at the lifestyles and interiors of Asheville’s downtown dwellers. The apartments and condos that rise above this little city provide some breathtaking views, and it’s hard to not feel a hint of envy at the plebian’s limited access to such vistas.
Some of the residents in these spaces had their personal artwork on display, such as Patric Mullen, whose straightforward depiction of Winston Churchill—painted the day after Churchill died in 1965—- appears as hip as anything painted today. While much of the art that decorated the Urban Loft tour was impressive, it was determined that there are still many exciting things to be seen on the ground as well.
After the tour, we jetted down to the River District and caught an impromptu circus performance by the Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater Group—an affordable and compelling show for the masses. Using large puppets and the simplest of resources, the group succeeded in entertaining a diverse audience with satire and creative ingenuity. A droll skit promoting rooftop farming was followed with a somber memorandum for lives lost in the Israeli/Palestine conflict. At one point, a member of the troupe whipped a giant flag with skill and grace over the heads of the crowd, eliciting a number of oohs and ahhs from audience members. When the show was over, they passed around a hat for donations and gave out slices of homemade bread doused in a garlic sauce. Yum. Now that’s entertainment!
For more satire, visit the Over Easy Café at 32 Broadway to see the work of local artist Anna Thompson, who has sculpted 19 raccoon faces out of papier-mâché and hung them at random on the walls. At first glance, the faces all appear similar, and all very cute. Further examination reveals their distinct differences. Each is given his/her own name: “Smokin’ Pee Wee” displays his pink ears, round face and slender pipe alongside “Smokin’ Cas,” whose pipe juts out from a different angle and whose ears are not pink, while “Smokin’ Dooly Raccoon” has a more angular face and enjoys a fatter pipe.
There is a deeper message at work here about crafting traditions—that which gets made over and over by hand invariably cannot be replicated, and everything holds a personalized appeal. The epicenter of Thompson’s show, “Bear Skin Quilt Rug,” is stretched over a corner of the café, calling into question morals and tradition. Even the “Truly Anna Amazing” neon sign feels at home in this succinct and appealing installation that is worth seeing before it comes down at the end of the month.
The work of Asheville artist Sarah Cavalieri (currently at PUSH gallery and skate shop at 25 Patton) also merits attention. PUSH’s ample showroom (behind the skate-shop wares) has grown into a reputable gallery for local emerging talents. Cavalieri’s exhibit, entitled Doomsday Safari, showcases her newest relief paintings and shadow-box dioramas. The images are graphic (but palatable) in their comedic and stylized depictions. Hoards of bees flee burning cities with bags of money clinched in their legs, grotesque monsters with many eyes vomit goo and pus, skulls are piled up, and flowers bloom with color and depth. The use of materials is also remarkable, as Cavalieri has sculpted foam and polymer clay for the base of each and then painstakingly painted in the details with acrylics. The show will be hanging until June 9.