Cecilia Wong Kaiser: 'Blue Sky'
Artist Cecilia Wong Kaiser's first solo exhibition, "Blue Sky," is now on view at BFree Studio.
Kaiser took a circuitous route to this milestone. She attended Brown to study art but soon felt mismatched with the art world, then took a few brief detours in the fashion industry (including interning at Xandra Rhodes) and business world — and even worked part-time at the Gap — before landing as a lawyer.
When she was a toddler, Kaiser's family immigrated from Myanmar, then known as Burma. Her sunny outlook towards painting evolved from an almost rebellious place: resisting what she was told she "should" paint.
"At Brown, the idea was that I should be doing sort of bold, angry gestures. And I like to make paintings of small chairs. They were individual portraits, like 8-by8 of little chairs, usually in corners. And that was considered to be not appropriately expressing my oppression, which was confusing for me because I didn't feel like an oppressed person," she said. "I felt like a privileged person. Here I was at an Ivy League institution getting to study art and write poetry. It wasn't my story."
Instead of complicated, dark imagery, she just wanted to work on her chairs.
"How could portraits of chairs be subversive? And yet they were because it wasn't what I was supposed to be doing," Kaiser said.
It's no surprise that she's leaned into what she calls "blue sky thinking."
She's expanded beyond chairs, and the exhibition features portraiture, urban landscapes and floating still lifes. The unifying element is a vivid blue or turquoise sky rendered in rich acrylic. The faces express a candid joy — figures caught mid-jump or mid-selfie.
My favorites are a blend of the landscapes and portraiture in a series of ambiguous museum scenes. Museumgoers study oversized works of art, but Kaiser has swapped out the art for — what else? Blue sky.
Details: On view through Feb. 5, 2023. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. An artist talk will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25. BFree Studio, 7857 Girard Ave., La Jolla. Free.
Ana Carrete: 'Blush and Blink' book release
Poet Ana Carrete's work is a study in contrasts: the tragic and the comic, humanizing and disruptive, approachable and deeply private. After her previous collections "Baby Babe," and "Girlfriend Cosplay" (to name a few), I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into her newest book, "Blush and Blink," published by Lang Books, a local art publisher and bookshop.
Lang Books has taken over the former Swish Gallery space, building on their commitment to independent and boundary-pushing art in San Diego (while also stocking a bunch of unique art books).
Laurie Piña and Jos Charles will also read.
Details: 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21. Lang Books, 2903 El Cajon Blvd. Ste. 2, North Park. Free.
Ephrat Asherie Dance: 'UnderScored'
The NYC-based Ephrat Asherie Dance (EAD) comes through San Diego every few years, and this weekend they're hosted by ArtPower at UC San Diego for performances of "UnderScored."
The evening-length work is a narrative collection of homages to historical underground dance movements in the New York club scene, in collaboration with "elders" in the dance scene. In fact, the youngest performer is 28, and the oldest is 79.
Details: 8 p.m. Jan. 19, 20 and 21. Mandeville Auditorium, 9500 Gilman Dr., UC San Diego. $9-$40.
Tasha Smith Godinez: 'Out of the Desert' album release concert
Classical harpist Tasha Smith Godinez released her latest album, "Out of the Desert," last year and will celebrate its release in a free performance in Mission Hills. The album features Christopher Garcia on percussion and Domenico Hueso on viola. The album is a diverse collection of works written mostly during the pandemic. Standout tracks: a five-song series called "My Soul Floats on the Sea."
Details: 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21. First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front St., Mission Hills. Free.
'Into the Woods'
The quintessential mashup of basically every fairytale you can think of, Steven Sondheim's 1987 classic musical "Into the Woods" is funny, tender and super catchy. The award-winning Ovation Theatre, a North County-based performing arts nonprofit for youth and adult theater, has a new production beginning its run this weekend.
Details: On stage Friday, Jan. 20 through Sunday. Jan. 29. This weekend's performances are 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Howard Brubeck Theatre at Palomar College, 1140 W. Mission Rd., San Marcos. $25-$28.
Tom Driscoll: 'Cornered'
If you've browsed the new exhibition space at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla campus, you've likely spied work by Tom Driscoll — his 3D wall installations consisting of painted everyday objects in an array of single, bright colors. The longtime artist is known for his protruding sculptures and the pairing of the mundane with surprising geometry.
Driscoll has a solo show of new sculptures, curated by MCASD director emeritus Hugh M. Davies, opening this weekend at SIP Art Space in San Marcos.
Details: Opens with a reception at 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21. On view through March 3. SIP Art Space, 215 S Pacific St., San Marcos. Free.
'The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci'
The cast announcement for The Old Globe's production of Mary Zimmerman's play, "The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci" includes a baffling list of eight different actors "as Leonardo."
The script is taken directly from da Vinci's notebooks, and that eight-Leonardo cast accompanies the audience on a wild journey through one of the most celebrated minds in art, science and philosophy.
Watch for KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando's preview of this unique production next week.
Details: Opens Saturday, Jan. 21, and runs through Feb. 26. This weekend's performances are 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. $29-$116.
Lunar New Year events
Lunar New Year is a traditional festival that commemorates the beginning of the new year on the lunar calendar, celebrated in China, South Korea, Vietnam and others. This year rings in the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese tradition and the Year of the Cat in the Vietnamese zodiac. This year's official Lunar New Year is Sunday, but the festivities span 16 days, stretching into February. In San Diego, there are events for the next three weekends, but here are a few options this weekend:
Chinese New Year Fair at the International Cottages runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 21-22. 2191 Pan American Rd., Balboa Park. Free.
San Diego Lunar New Year Festival runs 5-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Little Saigon district. Schedule here. Jeremy Henwood Park, 4455 Wightman St., City Heights. Free.
Public library festivities, including lion dances, storytimes and crafts, run throughout the Lunar New Year period. The lion dance performances take place just this weekend at seven library locations across the county. Schedule here.
The Old Globe's AXIS event: Lunar New Year is a free community celebration at the outdoor Copley Plaza from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23. 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. Free.