By Stacy Davies
Now in its 24th year, the dA Center for the Arts’ annual color-coded show, “Simply Red,” once again features an eclectic array of works from locals and out-of-towners with the single criteria that somewhere in the piece there’s got to be a little crimson flowing.
Notable pieces include Lisa Cook’s knotty wood framed Black Annis Seeing Red, a vibrant, gorgeously-wrought oil in which a blue mythological forest goddess with Freddie Krueger fingernails swoops down upon a scampering golden-haired girl in a blood-red dress—to what end we are unsure—and Accidental Occidental featuring a stage show of curvy Siamese twin ladies in gilded headdresses who beckon the audience to toss them more gold for their bejeweled torsos. Jailbird, Karen Lopez’s soft, whimsical monoprint of another shapely gal sitting on a bird swing with winged critters both perched on her finger and on another swing inside her chest, is exceptional and might also tell us why the caged bird sings, and Andrew Flores has managed to reproduce an African Sunset with colored electrical tape and actually make us feel the heat. Graeme Gale’s hand-carved bench, floor lamp and table stacked with red books are utterly sublime and ever so Thoreauvian, and don’t miss Raul Pizarro’s Song for a Deaf God, an intricate and sensual portrait of a porcelain-skinned nude lying in a bed of multicolored flowers who seems as if she’s found a particularly lovely type of heaven right here on earth.
Quirky smaller works that offer some fun come from electronic music icon Franz Keller’s Construction of the Tin Woodman, a four-panel collage of various marker, digital, stencil and computer sketches of the famous heartsick friend of Dorothy; Karen Karlsson’s minute lock of red hair that she apparently snipped from her own coppery mane, and Edgar Alexander Lara’s tiny, tortoise-print framed acrylic La Hormiga is such an oddly amusing subject to glorify that it feels as if we’re gazing at a beloved Addams Family pet portrait.
The standout piece of the show, however, is A.S. Ashley’s Leni Riefenstahl: Why I Love the Nuba, a bone-shaking, deftly-crafted acrylic in which we find the infamous filmmaker and propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, decades after her oft-debated Nazi associations have quieted, walking through the Sudanese mountains holding hands with her Nuba guide. Riefenstahl, hailed by many as the most visionary female director of the 20th century, always maintained her naiveté of the Nazi’s “Final Solution,” and while falling in love with Africans doesn’t necessarily wash one of racist implications, the left-facing swastika in the background (which is not Hitler’s twisted, deadly spider, but instead the ancient Indian symbol for “good luck”) is a powerful message of how unsavory associations, regardless of actual innocence, can leave permanent stains on one’s past.
There are many more works that engender interest and chuckles, of course, and with the dA launching their new session of spring art and music classes featuring courses taught by Franz Keller, Vicky Thomas, Amy Maloof and others, there’s simply no reason you shouldn’t put this progressive community arts center on your to-do list—several times, in fact.
“Simply Red” at dA Center for the Arts, 252 S. Main St., Pomona, (909) 397-9716; www.dacenter.org. Wed-Sat, noon-4PM; Thurs, noon-9PM. Thru Feb. 26. Free.