New Yorker Chakaia Booker is making tracks across the contemporary art scene. The mixed-media artist conveys her images of struggle by twisting and contorting raw materials like wood, fiber and metal, but her signature works are created through manipulations of used, mangled tires. She weaves the discarded rubber into large, black, fluid-like constructions that emphasize textures, smells, scars and burn marks.
"Her work is so fascinating," says University of Colorado Health Sciences Center event-production manager Thomas Sheridan of Booker, whose distinguished resumé includes solo exhibitions at the Neuberger Museum of Art, the Akron Museum of Art and the Marlborough Gallery, as well as sculptures in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "It carries with it strong emotional ties to slavery, factory labor and the Industrial Revolution."
Booker communicates her ideas to the common man by molding materials manufactured by the working class and then speaking to the similarity between the eccentricities in rubber and those of the human spirit. "Her work has a distinct sense of humility and humanity to it that makes it so socially relevant," Sheridan comments.
Booker will discuss those themes tonight at St. Cajetan's Center on the Auraria campus beginning at 6:30 p.m., with an artist reception immediately following. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 303-352-3500 or log on to www.cudenver.edu/cam. -- Kity Ironton
Billy Collins is a poet of the people.
Like a well-worn pair of Chuck Taylors, the words of former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins feel like true blue-collar Americana. Collins -- who is most likely to be found in those same sneakers and a pair of faded jeans -- has broken sales records with his last three volumes of poetry. His subjects range from perusal of a lofty lingerie catalogue to an almost-love sonnet about an egg-salad stain in the margin of a used copy of Catcher in the Rye. The poet, with his unpredictable and unpretentious street style, is regularly featured on National Public Radio and packs audiences into auditoriums across the country, prompting some critics to call him the "Pied Piper of U.S. poetry."
Hear for yourself as the incomparable rhymer, whose poems were described by fellow wordsmith John Updike as "limpid, gently and consistently startling," reads tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Gates Concert Hall at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue. Tickets, $25 to $40, are available at DU's Ritchie Center box office or through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 303-871-7720 or visit www.du.edu/newmancenter. -- Kity Ironton
John DeAndrea's lifelike "Linda" sculpture, a fixture at the Denver Art Museum, comes alive tonight when the artwork's namesake, Linda Keller, reads from her new collection of poetry, Comet Dreams, at the LoDo Tattered Cover. The verse proves that there's more to the Denver Public Schools teacher than the good looks captured by DeAndrea 21 years ago; her husband, John Boak, who illustrated Keller's fifth book, isn't half bad himself. "Poetry is one thing I've done consistently, so I hope when I die, my obituary will mention that and not just 'Linda,'" says Keller, who has been writing since she was fourteen. The TC is at 1628 16th Street; the program begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 303-777-0304 or visit www.tatteredcover.com. -- Amy Haimerl
Aurora hosts contemporary British arts and crafts.
At a London street market, my sister and I stood before a surly vendor, studying his wares. My sister tried on ring after ring, but none fit.
"I guess my fingers are too fat," she said to the man, smiling politely.
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"You must have been eating too many finger foods," I said.
Words cannot express how hard we laughed. The vendor stared at us sternly and sighed.
He was not a good vendor. No charm, no pizzazz, his rings were too small and were crudely made. Not like the artists featured in U.K. in the U.S.A.: Applied Art From the British Isles, which opens today and runs through April 30 at East End Applied Arts, 1556 Florence Street in Aurora. Featuring contemporary art from a dozen of Britain's most innovative craftspeople -- from glassblowers to intricate-jewelry makers -- the exhibit offers something for everyone. Even those with a propensity for finger food.
For more information, call 303-506-8727. -- Adam Cayton-Holland