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Arts & Culture

San Diego weekend arts events: Lilian Martinez, 'to the yellow house,' 'Boil the Ocean,' Michelle Bradley and Kazim Ali

Daniel Lang / Swish Projects
Artist Lilian Martinez is pictured in studio in an undated photo. Martinez will open a new solo show on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at Swish Projects.

This weekend in the arts: Lilian Martinez of BFGF at Swish Projects, Kimber Lee's Van Gogh story at The La Jolla Playhouse, Marina Zurkow at ICA North, soprano Michelle Bradley and an in-store "Choose Your Own Adventure" reading.

Lilian Martinez: 'Castillos y Cuevas Joyas y Piedras'

Visual Art

Artist Lilian Martinez is also known for her home goods company, BFGF, which sells tapestries, upholstered furniture, pillows, clothing and accessories that are like comfy works of art. And lucky us: she'll open a solo show at Swish Projects this weekend.

Her works of art are striking, often with a really evocative use of everyday objects and brands and especially with the figure — particularly women of color. In this exhibition, Swish's John Itiola says her work is "exploring themes of beauty, humor and comfort." With a mix of sculptural pieces, fabrics and canvas paintings, Martinez's work is startling and soothing at the same time. And don't miss the 200 lb carved limestone "Art Handler," an abstract figure prone atop a chunky, pastel-hued automobile.

Details: "Castillos y Cuevas Joyas y Piedras" (which translates to "castles and caves, jewels and stones," opens Saturday with a reception from noon to 3 p.m., and will be on view by appointment through Dec. 19, 2021. Swish Projects, 2903 El Cajon Blvd., North Park. Free.

'to the yellow house'


The world premiere of Kimber Lee's play will finally open at the La Jolla Playhouse — after postponing its anticipated spring 2020 opening. "To the yellow house" is set during a two year period in Vincent van Gogh's life, which Lee became fascinated with after reading Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith's comprehensive biography, "Van Gogh: The Life." She noticed there were some years largely missing in what we know about the great painter's life, and looked to fill in those details. It's set mostly in Paris and the southern city of Arles (the location of the actual yellow house), at a time when Van Gogh was particularly struggling with his work.

Rich Soublet II
Paco Tolson as Vincent Van Gogh in "to the yellow house," by playwright Kimber Lee, directed by Neel Keller. The play runs at the La Jolla Playhouse through Dec. 12, 2021.

"The play brings him through great difficulty, through a moment of great shattering, to a place of quiet resolve and kind of starting over," Lee told me this week. "He has no way of knowing that the paintings he's about to do are going to be some of the most famous paintings in the history of art. He has no way of knowing any of that. But despite the ringing failure and heartbreak that he goes through, he still finds something within himself to say, I'm going to keep going anyway."

Keep an eye out for my feature on The Playhouse's production of "to the yellow house" later this week.

Details: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Performances continue, Tuesdays through Sundays, through Dec. 12. The La Jolla Playhouse Mandell Weiss Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla. $39-75. Military discounts available.

More theater (and dance): The Broadway touring production of "Hairspray" is here, just through Sunday. I just saw this, and it is an incredible cast, and the top notch design, singing, lighting and dancing is almost overwhelming after a long break from major productions like this. And you can check out KPBS Arts and Culture reporter Beth Accomando's feature here.

Even more theater: "1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas" opens with low-cost previews at New Village Arts this weekend. Written by Dea Hurston and directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, with music by Milena (Sellers) Phillips and additional creative collaboration from Frankie Alicea-Ford and Kevin "Blax" Burroughs — the play follows the festive family traditions (and drama) of Dorothy Black for a brand new classic.

Courtesy of ICA San Diego
Marina Zurkow's video installation works are shown in an undated photo.

Marina Zurkow: 'Boil the Ocean'

Visual Art

Let's give this one the best title award. New York-based artist Marina Zurkow will launch her residency at ICA North (formerly Lux) in Encinitas with a reception on Friday. The exhibition is immersive (artistically speaking, not aquatically) and will transform the gallery space. Zurkow's work is informed by the space between human civilization and ocean, the uneven relationship between the two, and, of course, human impact. Sculptural elements will include actual local marine debris (smell included), and the installation will feature several generative video works that will transform throughout the residency.

Details: Marina Zurkow's residency begins with an opening reception Friday from 6-8 p.m. and will be on view through Jan. 30, 2022. Regular gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. ICA North, 1550 S El Camino Real, Encinitas. $0-10 for the reception, pay what you wish gallery admission.

More visual art: Masters of Photography: The Garner Collection re-opens at the San Diego Museum of Art this weekend. This was originally on view during the pandemic, but since the exhibition's run was cut short, the museum has brought it out for another whirl. Discover new favorites as well as plenty of iconic photographs from the 20th century through today, all part of the collection of local collectors Cam and Wanda Garner. Open most days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. and closed on Wednesday.

Kazim Ali: 'The Citadel of Whispers'

Literature, Family/Teens

Choose Your Own Adventure / Chooseco LLC
The book cover of "The Citadel of Whispers" by Kazim Ali.

Remember "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? Well, literary superstar Kazim Ali (who happens to be local, and helms the literature department at UC San Diego) has written a new story for the youth literary franchise.

Krishi is a "whisperer," learned in the ancient ways of magicians and sorcerers from the age of 10, suddenly caught up in a threat to the city of Elaria. Oh, and Krishi? It's you. I love the implicating nature of these second-person stories, regardless of the actual decision making we get to do. Ali's prose and storytelling is as richly detailed as it is enchanting and approachable, perfect for readers middle grade and up. He will appear to read and discuss the work in-person at The Book Catapult, one of the first in-person events the beloved South Park bookstore will hold since pre-pandemic.

Details: Saturday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. The Book Catapult, 3010-B Juniper St., South Park. Free.

Michelle Bradley

Music, Opera

Michelle Bradley, known for her incredible turn in the title role of the San Diego Opera's production of "Aida," will return to San Diego for a two-night intimate performance with piano accompaniment. The program spotlights American composers (of note: Samuel Barber's "Hermit Songs") and a series of spirituals.

Details: Saturday Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall at The Conrad, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. Tickets start at $50.

More music: The San Diego Master Chorale will also perform a set of twin concerts this weekend, one in St. Paul's Cathedral near Balboa Park on Saturday at 7 p.m., and a repeat on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Carlsbad, at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church.

For more arts events, visit the KPBS/Arts calendar, and be sure to sign up for my weekly KPBS/Arts newsletter. Read a recent edition here.

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