There's no better time for an accounting of a year gone by than at the birth of new one that just popped purple and screaming from the loins of Mama Time. This year, I've decided to confine my top 10 arts moments (largely) to local arts. It wasn't easy to narrow this down. It never is. I know I left plenty of things out, but I'll pay my dues for that in the next life. Hopefully, the Lord will have mercy on my art-lovin' soul.
There are only so many slots in a top 10 list, so I had to make some tough decisions. Let's hope they were judicious. Anyway, here are my picks, in no particular order.
1. Tracy Stuckey's The Higher the Marble Content, The Better the Meat at Bivouac Artspace—It could simply be because I'm a recovering vegetarian, but I really loved Stuckey's meat mannequin torsos that were on display last fall at the Bivouac, a cool new gallery on south Fourth Street. Yes, they were a clever, if none-too-subtle commentary on the commodification of the human body. Mainly, though, they were a cool treat for the eye.
2. Jean Genet's The Maids at Sol Arts—Director Joe Feldman and his tiny cast did sharp work with Genet's bizarre little play about two maids plotting to kill their mistress: a tricky, black comedy fueled almost entirely by the cruel power of spoken words.
3. New Mexico Books & More—For the second year in a row, our local literary community proved that the best way to sell books is for authors and local publishers to take matters into their own hands. The seasonal holiday sale in a small storefront in Cottonwood Mall was a huge success, bringing welcome attention to New Mexico's thriving literary culture.
4. Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man at the Cell Theatre—I was pleasantly surprised by this brief, touching Fusion Theatre Company production exploring the relationship between artist and audience. It featured some truly admirable performances by the two leads—local Laurie Thomas and veteran Chicago stage and screen actor Gary Houston.
5. Albuquerque Slam Team wins the Nationals!—I would never have imagined it, but in a lot of ways the National Poetry Slam competition, which occurred in Albuquerque last year, really felt like a coming-of-age for our city's arts scene. There was so much raw energy on the streets for those four days. The fact that the finals filled the 2,300-seat Kiva Auditorium to capacity, and that a very talented Albuquerque team took home the title with 75 teams competing from as far away as France, just made it all that much sweeter.
6. Matthew Lutz' Shadows and Portraits at UNM's Jonson Gallery—I felt strangely calmed by this ethereal bifurcated exhibit that showed at the university over the summer. Lutz' meditations on tragedy and endurance were as spiritually inspiring as they were visually beautiful.
7. Steven Dietz' Lonely Planet at the Vortex Theatre—This two-man play at the Vortex was one of the finest explorations of the AIDS crisis I've witnessed in years.
8. Juli Etheridge's Rot at the Tricklock Performance Space—Tricklock Theatre Company members have whipped up countless solo shows over the years. I particularly enjoyed Etheridge's utterly unpretentious comedy drawing absurd comparisons between her own life and that of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley.
9. Lisa Gill and Kris Mills' The Nerve at the Harwood Art Center—The result of a year-long collaboration, this stunning exhibit used poetry and visual art to examine the fragility of human health.
10. Kelly Braffet's Josie and Jack—Yeah, I know. I said I was going to limit this list to local arts, but I have to make an exception for Kelly Braffet's debut novel. You would think that a story about the neurotically incestuous relationship between a hyper-intelligent pair of siblings would be icky. It was. But it was also probably the most entertaining book I read all year. This is what they mean by "page-turner."