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Arts : Don’t hide your light under a bushel 

Linda Pace and George Yepes shine in Blue Star 21

“So, you write bad things about good people,” Blue Star 21 curator William Campbell quipped when I was introduced to him at the show’s opening as the editor of the city’s alt-weekly paper. Having just met Campbell, the eponymous proprietor of a Fort Worth contemporary-art gallery when he’s not taste-making in SA, I can’t comment on whether he is good in, say, an EM Forster sense, but I will have to write one slightly bad thing about him via his show.

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Zane Lewis’s “Weeping Jesus,” one of the highlights at Blue Star 21, the annual Contemporary Art Month group show.

At Blue Star Executive Director Bill FitzGibbon’s urging, Campbell selected the artists for Blue Star 21 from the 200-plus individuals who donated art to Blue Star’s 2005 Arts & Eats gala — the center’s annual fall fundraiser that includes a silent art auction. Setting aside for the moment the potential conflict of interest (carrot for ’06 or stick for ’05?) this presents, it also gave the curator a pre-selected pool that conceivably eliminated some of the best contemporary art of the moment; not coincidentally, I think, some of the city’s best artists of ’06 are not in this show. It also may explain why Blue Star 21 lacks an overall sense of cohesiveness and vision.

But in any tailings pond we can find some ore, and this one almost has a motherlode. The “Eureka!” moment of the show is Artpace founder Linda Pace’s mirrored igloo, an abstract-mosaic-covered wonder constructed from mirrored acrylic and polystyrene that marks a significant departure from the artist’s monochromatic collected-object collages. It’s big enough to sit inside (no shoes, please), where you can contemplate a thousand refractions of yourself amid sparkles of light and bits of art from the gallery outside. The interactive sculpture presents enough interactive metaphors for (your choice) a long session on your psychiatrist’s couch or in deep meditation — select from masks, armor, self-awareness, self-loathing, or, as the title “Mirror Mirror” suggests, vanity and envy.

One observer said that he loved the way Pace’s igloo cast light on the other sculptures like sand in their eyes. I didn’t take that meaning, but it does substantively outshine its neighbors and anchors the exhibition along with a wall painting by Zane Lewis, who recently dazzled us at Finesilver Gallery `see “The Art Capades,” March 8-14, 2006`. Here, Lewis transfers his trademark color-by-numbers template to the wall in pink vinyl. The wayward paint streams from the eyes of “Weeping Jesus” and pools on the floor. I like the idea of this transition from canvas to wall, particularly the way in which it engages the gallery space and the viewer in contemplating art boundaries. But paint like tears from the eyes? Too gimmicky. Also, the pink vinyl seems like a misstep - but in the right direction, nonetheless.

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Linda Pace’s “Mirror Mirror”

There are strong (relatively) smaller works in Blue Star 21, too. Hiding in a far corner, “A Moose with legs but no wings,” by Irma Rivera, uses graphite, oil, and latex on a canvas panel to create a black void in which a lone bird tumbles among flora and organic skeins. Curt Stangal’s multi-media sculpture couldn’t be more different in palette — National Geographic-map blue and safety-orange-red — than Rivera’s painting, but it also creates a free-floating sense of alarm. The orange silk-screened shapes suspended on acrylic above the blue half-cylinders suggest storm patterns or earthquake equipment.

But in many ways, this show belongs to the grand gesture: David Isenhour’s gold-painted plaster cast of a body print, and a massive partial crucifix by George Yepes and Maria Kilcha Kane (aka the Art Geisha), “Soy Ilegal Crucifixion.” The artists have stenciled “Chingón” below the Virgen and countered the Nazi concentration-camp slogan Arbeit Macht Frei with Biblical verses, including Isaiah 53:1-5, which reads in part, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not ... But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

With this piece, Solamente Salma — this spring’s celeb-fest with Yepes and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez — is redeemed. Go forth Blue Star, and prosper, keeping perhaps Luke 6:26 in mind.

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