State of the arts: The better works are those done with total freedom

Owner Hector Diaz turned the walls at the downtown restaurant Chorizo over to four muralists. Photos by Max Cooper

New Walls for Chorizo

A new series of murals now cover the interior walls of Chorizo, the Latin restaurant located in the east end of the Grove Arcade. The new works are by Trek 6 (a Miami-based artist that’s been painting in town for the past few weeks), Ishmael, Gus Cutty and Dustin Spagnola.

The work features a mixture of Spanish, Latin and American themes to reflect the artists’ ethnic backgrounds, but also the restaurant’s culinary identity. The Virgin Mary, a Portuguese man-of-war and a rooster accompany images of Pedro Albizu Campos and a farmer holding a stick and machete. Campos was the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Chef and Owner Hector Diaz was initially turned on to the idea after seeing the walls at Ananda Hair Studio on Broadway. And in a moment of chance, Diaz was driving by Daggitt’s Pawn Shop on Haywood Road while Trek 6 happened to be painting in the company of the other artists. So he stopped and struck a deal.

The four painters had full creative license for this project. It’s a trend that seems to be growing not only in our city (Ananda, Cotton Mill Studios, Chicken Alley), but across the country as well. Business owners are putting more trust in the artists they are hiring to paint their walls. In the event of aesthetic catastrophe, the works could always be painted over.

Commissioning specific works can often hinder or impede on the creative process. However, it yields a check, so most artists will take the work.

Still, “The better works are those done with total freedom,” says Ishmael. “So let the artists do what they are good at.”

A Rocky Horror Figure Model

There are plenty of drawing sessions held in and around Asheville. Most are traditional, in the sense that a nude model holds classical poses for short periods of time while a quiet, solemn and studious room full of students and artists work away at drawings.

But at Eleven on Grove (street), there is an alternative. They call it an “Anti-Art School.”

“We are a life-drawing class with a cabaret twist,” says Queen April, the program organizer for Asheville’s chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. The “school” was founded in NYC in 2005 by (of course) an art-school drop out. It’s now in more than 100 cities scattered across multiple continents. On a basic level, it’s still a drawing class, but one that also promotes underground performers.

Queen April has been running the current embodiment of the school, previously run by Corky Bordeaux, since spring. Asheville’s take on the drawing classes features a monthly theme and a rotating cast of burlesque performers, drag queens and alternative models. Each session is held on the first Thursday of the month.

There’s also a full bar available at this dance-hall-turned-drawing-room — another feature divorced from academia.

In honor and anticipation of October’s end-of-month festivities, the Thursday, Oct. 4 performance will include a local Rocky Horror cast. It costs $10 to attend, $7 for students with a valid ID.

And for those attending, Queen April adds that “bawdy and debaucherous behavior is encouraged.”

Hearts and Arts of Darkness

Push Skateshop’s 2012 incarnation of its somewhat-annual exhibition “Arts of Darkness” will take a back seat to gallery maintenance. That is to say, you’ll have to wait until next year to view the city’s only horror-stricken [Joseph] Condrad-ian art exhibition, says store and gallery owner Rob Sebrell.

The alterations are largely focused on hiding a rather obtrusive air conditioning duct that covers a chunk of the gallery’s west wall. “Past artists have figured out ways to work with it, or include it,” Sebrell notes, “but not everyone uses it.” While some have simply hung their work on it, others have used the gaudy metallic exterior to assist the atmosphere of the entire show. Getting rid of this eyesore has been a goal since Sebrell opened seven years ago. “Covering the thing up will add more weight to the works on display.”

Though Push is taking the month off from showing work, skipping Arts of Darkness doesn’t exactly break the mold. The first incarnation was in October 2009, but the ever-ominous “unforeseen circumstances” caused the show to skip 2010. Last year marked the second showing. So this year’s absence fits the pattern, but Sebrell plans to make it an annual event in the future.

The gallery will reopen in November with works by Asheville painter and Xpress arts writer Ursula Gullow.

Kyle Sherard writes about the visual arts for Xpress and can be reached at


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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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