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San Diego Weekend Arts Events: Pop-Up WOW, Gabriela Lena Frank, Melissa Walter, DIY Wire Art And Neighborhood Art Fairs

"Autoradiogram 002" by Melissa Walter is part of her new solo exhibition, "Smallest of Places," on view at Oceanside Museum of Art through Nov. 7, 2021.
Melissa Walter
"Autoradiogram 002" by Melissa Walter is part of her new solo exhibition, "Smallest of Places," on view at Oceanside Museum of Art through Nov. 7, 2021.

Our weekend arts picks include free, outdoor, innovative theater, a SummerFest takeover, DNA forensic art at OMA, Jennifer Vargas wire art workshop and four neighborhood art fairs.

Our weekend arts picks include free, outdoor, innovative theater at Liberty Station for the La Jolla Playhouse's Pop-Up WOW, a SummerFest contemporary composer takeover, Melissa Walter's DNA forensic art at OMA, a free, all-ages Jennifer Vargas wire art workshop at Art Produce and four neighborhood art fairs.

Melissa Walter: 'Smallest Of Places'

Visual Art

For a new solo exhibition at Oceanside Museum of Art, artist Melissa Walter studied DNA forensics, which is the use of DNA analysis in criminal investigations since the 1990s. Some of the works even sprung from collaborations with researchers. Walter's penchant for science is no surprise to her fans — she was an illustrator for NASA and also once built an entire multi-wall installation out of small paper tetrahedrons.


The works in this exhibition are curious, pulling from various stages of the evolution of DNA forensics. There's representations of phenotyping, of autoradiograms, nucleotide patterns and AI. It's fascinating and also unsettling to see DNA analysis portrayed in a stationary, visual form — something that holds so much definitive power in the justice system. And with subtle repeated patterns, blotches of pigment with almost angry mark-making or dense code, these works are also beautiful and aesthetically evocative.

Details: Exhibition information. Thursday through Saturday from 12-5 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m. OMA members get early access beginning at 11 a.m., through Nov. 7, 2021.

MORE VISUAL ART: Panca's 'El Más Allá' Opens At The New Children's Museum

Pop-Up WOW

Theater, Music, Dance

Four works of inventive, interdisciplinary theater are part of this weekend's Pop-Up Without Walls Festival from the La Jolla Playhouse. First is a block of three “lawn" performances, where audiences are seated on the lawn.


The plays include Blindspot Collective's reflection on this moment in history, called "When the Bubble Bursts." It has a pretty big, robust cast and is inspired by stories from local artists. And there's the San Diego Black Artist Collective's "Get On Board," which is a musical performance that goes through the evolution of Black music. Then Jesca Prudencio's work of dance theater, "Can We Now?" is about the emergence from isolation — and there's apparently a dance flashmob.

Off the lawn is an immersive, interactive project called "Optika Piñata" from David Israel Reynoso's immersive performance company Optika Moderna, made in partnership with the New Children's Museum. You may remember their "Portaleza" performances during the digital WOW days. There's legends and myths and "mysterious parcels" and it's all designed so you see things in a new way.

Bring a blanket or beach chair. It's free, and no registration is required, but RSVPing with the Playhouse ensures you'll get the latest updates or notices.

Details: Event information. The three plays will take place at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, and noon and 3 p.m. Sunday. Optika Piñata runs every seven minutes in blocks after the lawn performances — 2-4:30 p.m. and 6-7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1-3 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. on Sunday. Liberty Station's North Promenade, 2848 Dewey Rd., Liberty Station. Free.

MORE THEATER: The Globe Returns To Live Performances With 'Hair'

Mesh wire work by artist Jennifer Vargas in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Art Produce
Mesh wire work by artist Jennifer Vargas in an undated photo.

Make It Yourself: Wire Sculpture With Jennifer Vargas

Visual Art, Workshop

This free, all-ages outdoor workshop at Art Produce is led by Jennifer Vargas, who makes incredible sculptures out of wire mesh. I love the way light plays with the density of the mesh in Vargas' work. No RSVP or registration is needed, so just show up ready to be inspired. Art Produce will continue these workshops with various artists in residence, every Saturday through Aug. 28.

Details: Event information. Saturday from 12-2 p.m. 3139 University Ave., North Park. Drop in, free.

SummerFest: Takeover at the JAI I, Curated By Gabriela Lena Frank

Classical music

This “takeover" will include a few compositions from the curator herself, composer Gabriela Lena Frank. The SummerFest musicians will perform selections from her "Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea," which is inspired by work by Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra. These are lovely and powerful operatic pieces about a fisherman performed by bass-baritone singer Kelly Markgraf and Chelsea de Souza on piano. They'll also perform "El Mundo" from Frank's "El último sueño de Frida y Diego," — the last dream of Frida and Diego — and a smattering of very new compositions from Christine Delphine Hedden, Nicholas Lell Benavides and Timothy Peterson. Plus, a string quartet work by Anjna Swaminathan that was co-commissioned by Frank in 2019, "Duplicity," that pairs South Indian classical music with other contemporary song cycles.

This will take place at the Conrad, in the smaller black box-style event space of the JAI, with cabaret table seating.

Details: Event information. Sunday at 7:30 p.m. 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. $60-75.

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank's work "Contested Eden" will premiere at SummerFest Aug. 7, 2021.
Mariah Tauger
Composer Gabriela Lena Frank's work "Contested Eden" will premiere at SummerFest Aug. 7, 2021.

Tianguis de la Raza, Arts In The Park, 2nd Saturday Art Walk And Barrio Art Crawl

Visual Art, Performance, Crafts

There are so many different family-friendly art fairs scattered across the town this weekend. At Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park, the Tianguis de la Raza art and craft market runs Sunday from 12-5 p.m.

Arts In The Park takes over Memorial Park in Chula Vista Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with an art walk, kid-friendly activities and a costume parade, and performances from Fern Street Circus.

And in the North County, it's Escondido's 2nd Saturday Art Walk, taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. along Grand Ave — a good starting point is Grand and Maple. Stick around for the unveiling of the latest phase of the "Esco Alley Art" group mural project in the alley between Maple and Broadway. .

More central, the Barrio Art Crawl takes place Saturday in Barrio Logan. Hours vary by store and gallery, but most kick off around noon.

For more art events, visit the KPBS/Arts calendar , and sign up for my weekend KPBS/Arts newsletter here.