Grow Up 

Giving the gift of art means you're becoming an aesthetic adult.

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Secretly, there are two things I want somebody to buy me this year. Special things that will set me apart from the rest, that will fill my heart with joy in the next year. One is a pair of Heelys, size 13, please. Yes, Heelys — those shoes with the wheel in the heel that send you scooting along the pavement when you lean back. You've seen them on kids everywhere, kids who go sliding by, Gumby-like, while you mind your own business in an airport or a hospital ward. Well they have them for adults, too, is all I'm saying. Like 45 bucks. That's what I'd like to see — a whole city of people on their way to work, gliding along on these puffy shoes. After the initial round of compound fractures, you'd see a city running much more smoothly, I promise.

The other thing is a Portopong — a portable beer-pong table. It's vinyl, so you can inflate it, put beer in the holders and compete with friends and people waiting for the next Greyhound. And it floats. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like a pool raft. But anyway, it folds right up so you can carry it wherever you go, to and from work, sliding along on your Heelys, looking for the next party.

But these are childish things, and reflect no obvious evolution, no sense of aesthetic or community. Which is why it's far more realistic to give and receive art. Yes, as in the square things hanging on walls, or the things sitting on little white pedestals. A number of galleries have small-works shows, of stuff that nearly fits in a stocking and isn't priced to kill. The appeal is obvious: it's one of a kind. It's beautiful. And it might save the life of an artist, maybe even one with medical bills from a Heelys accident.

1708 Gallery's current show, “Not So Silent Night: Holiday in a Box,” is the gallery's big fundraiser of the year. More than 100 pieces by local artists — paintings, sculpture, photography, even a plaster Jesus. It's a big show, but there's a catch. It's also a silent auction. The gala — and dance party — is Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. The gallery will also raffle off art boxes, 10-inch boxes done up by six artists, including Paul Teeples, Tom Chenoweth, Robert Walz and Cindy Neuschwander. One has red lights all over it like a pox, another has a peephole with a vista inside. The creator of each is kept secret till the night of the event. The show runs through Dec. 19.

Walz continues his love affair with the box over at Quirk Gallery. His show, “Little Things,” is a series of small, clear-acrylic boxes with a constellation of prints in each. People and buildings and spacecraft float within his tiny worlds. Though the images are two-dimensional, Walz layers them, creating bright shadow boxes. Quirk also still has its big show of art jewelry, “Sparkle Plenty,” including many pieces that could hang on a wall as easily as a lapel. Both shows close Dec. 23.

At Art6, the gallery's theme is “Art in a Box.” The members' invitational asked the artists to consider the box, to think inside or outside of it. So there's a profusion of squares and cubes — shadow boxes full of jacks or photos, one that looks like it was destroyed by a bug. The work here shows remarkable range, with a tendency toward intricately built things. Artists include Noah Scalin, Marian Hollowell, Frederick Chiriboga and Joshua Poteat, whose light box is one of the highlights of the show. For more conventional tastes, there's a box of popcorn in one corner. The show runs through Dec. 21.

Visual Arts Studio's annual holiday show of “Artistic Gifts” offers some of the brightest works on canvas and photographs on Broad Street — bold, colorful paintings of nature scenes and a bunch of limited edition prints by Susan Lamson. Gallery5's show of crafts offers some of the most eclectic work. The small selection of pieces manages to range from ceramic vases to a collection of what looks like 8-foot wooden sewing needles. And over on Main Street, works by the Metropolitan Richmond Artists' Association is on display at Uptown Gallery.

Across the river, both Artspace and Art Works have group shows which offer a characteristic range of styles from the occupants of Plant Zero and beyond. An unexpected highlight at Artspace is a series of big photos by Dan Mouer rendered in 3-D. As in, there were the little blue-and-red-lensed glasses hanging nearby. So if I don't get a pair of Heelys or my own Portopong, I'd at least like for somebody to buy me something like that to hang over my race-car bed. S


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