This month's First Saturday Art Crawl will land on Cinco de Mayo. Originally, the holiday celebrated the Mexican defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Now, of course, the holiday serves as a celebration of Mexican culture and identity, and as an excuse for the rest of us to have too many margaritas.
I haven't heard of any special crawl events for Saturday night. Perhaps we could make the revelers crossing Fifth Avenue run through a bonfire, re-enacting a Celtic fertility rite that's an even older May tradition. Bob Dylan has a birthday this month — perhaps we could all sing that song where he "married Isis on the fifth day of May." I can't say how loco the crawl will get, but the openings of two big annual exhibits and a very curious installation of video art are sure to add to the festive feeling.
When it comes to keeping up with the crawl, a few events help me mark time during the year: the first stiflingly hot crawl, the first freezing-cold crawl and artist Brother Mel's annual trek to Nashville to celebrate his birthday at The Arts Company. Every May, the Marianist monk travels to town with his latest works in tow. And while this year marks his 84th birthday, Mel is still a prolific artist — he just received an honorary doctorate from St. Louis University, and the school also installed a permanent sculpture garden featuring his work in downtown St. Louis. Tonight's show will include Mel's abstract paintings and sculpture along with a number of Nashville-themed pieces.
The other Fifth Avenue galleries will be holding over shows from last month. Rymer Gallery will continue Gabriel Mark Lipper's Thoroughbred. Having seen a few of Lipper's pieces before last month's show, I wasn't super-excited about this exhibit. But with most of the gallery at his disposal, Lipper's individual works come to life in the context of a larger series. Tinney Contemporary continues To Be Human. Curated by artist Jason Lascu, Human is a pretty wide-ranging display of figurative art that will hold up nicely to a second viewing.
The Tennessee Art League will be opening its 47th annual Central South Art Exhibition on Saturday night. This juried show accepted 268 submissions from 129 artists living all over the U.S., and I've already had a chance to peek at the winners. Ron Adcock's sculpture "Guitar #3" took Best of Show, while the James Allen Register Memorial Award went to Cindy Brabec-King's "Sachet Powder and Oil" — an intensely detailed still life in watercolors. Peggy Wilkerson's abstract canvas "Looking Into the Gulf" won The Chestnut Group Kim Barrick Award.
My personal favorite — Matthew Deric Gore's "Alice in Candyland" — won the Tennessee Art League President's Honor Award. It's a photo-realist oil painting of an anthropomorphic mouse reacting with delight at its discovery of a dining table strewn with candy. The painting recalls the same section of Alice's Adventures Under Ground that Kiki Smith references in her prints at the Frist Center's Fairy Tales show. I'm always a sucker for an obscure literary allusion, and Gore's shiny red Twizzlers inside a decorative glass jar look even better than the real thing.
If you're like me, you've already started spring cleaning at your house. Well, at least you've thought about starting it. A new community art project at Blend Studio reflects on the idea of creating a comfy home, with an interactive installation that is the brainstorm of artists Lindsay Black and Tiffany Dyer. My Home Is a Nest is a human-sized bird nest, created by a group of participants who each contributed a piece to the work. The artists pulled together the final construction, and gawkers stopping by Blend on Saturday night will be encouraged to include their own additions.
Derek Larson's Droopy Totems exhibition at COOP Gallery combines video art and sculpture in a show that has me more than a little curious. Larson's videos of colorful geometric patterns are projected on screens that resemble totem poles in various states of collapse. The shaped screens are freestanding, two-dimensional panels; precisely fitting a video to such a thing can be a real installation challenge. But from what I've seen on the artist's website, Larson seems to have his technique down pat, and Totems will likely be the most visually arresting show at the crawl. Put on your sombrero, get a designated driver, head downtown and see for yourself.