The Sari Road

For Colorado State University professor Diane Sparks, who specializes in textile design and merchandising, curating Divya Vastra: Heavenly Garments, an exhibit of about a hundred saris now on view at CSU's Curfman Gallery, was a labor of love for cloth and all of its possibilities.Once Sparks starts describing each outfit in shimmering detail, it's easy to get caught up in her swirling enthusiasm for the miasmic traditional garb of Indian women. You almost don't need to ask how she became entranced by textiles, but she has an answer ready: "That would almost be like asking me how I got my DNA," she says quite seriously. "I come from a long line of seamstresses." There was elbow grease as well as love involved. "I spent a lot of time this early fall ironing," she notes.

The exhibit is her culminating project stemming from a Fulbright study seminar and cultural exchange for which Sparks and thirteen other faculty members in different disciplines traveled to India in 2001; it's also part of an ongoing International Focus program hosted this fall by CSU.

Arranged in color groups, from the most subtly shaded examples on one side to the loudest, brightest ones on the other, the display takes your breath away. It's as though an unlikely series of Morris Louis veil paintings has been cut loose from the canvas. "My idea for the show was to re-create the splendor of the saris I saw in India, where there are millions of them everywhere," Sparks says. "The spectacle of color and beauty from all that fabric billowing in the wind is divine."

Still, she collected more saris for this exhibit in Fort Collins than she did abroad. Sparks met with women from the local Indian community, many of whom not only loaned her garments, but shared with her the stories behind each glorious length of cloth. "There are saris that are gossamer-thin, with woven gold designs of flowers," she raves. "There are saris completely embroidered -- all nine yards of fabric are hand-stitched. There are saris that are beaded, tie-dyed saris, cotton saris and silk saris."

Yet they're all so ephemeral. One woman told Sparks that the sari she'd loaned the exhibit cost only $2 in India -- such a deal.

Heavenly Garments runs through December 12; there will be a free gallery talk by Colorado Springs weaver Judi Arndt, a frequent traveler to India, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 10. For information, call 1-970-493-6210. -- Susan Froyd

Robert Hughes gabs about Goya
WED, 12/10

In the world of art criticism, Robert Hughes cuts a heroic figure, although that's not how you'd usually characterize someone who essentially talks about pictures. But there's no art connoisseur more outspoken (or simply commanding in stature and wit) than the Australian-born Time magazine critic and author; his singular interpretations rose to the forefront of both academic and popular culture with the airing of his public television series The Shock of the New twenty years ago, followed by the more recent series American Visions. Both programs spawned companion tomes that revealed his abilities as a literary virtuoso.Hughes turns his eye toward the great Spanish artist and social commentator Francisco de Goya y Lucientes in a new book, Goya. It's an exhaustive study of a man considered by many to be the missing link between classical and modern art. The painter balanced his official portraits of the early nineteenth-century Spanish royal court with darker works that possessed a political, humanist edge. Hughes, whose own obsession with Goya began with the purchase of a print made while the critic was still in his teens, will bring his subject to life for a Colorado audience when he speaks at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, tonight at 6 p.m.

Tickets for the event are $14 to $17, and reservations are recommended; call 1-719-634-5583. -- Susan Froyd

Work as Art
THURS, 12/4

There are twelve Regis University sophomores who aren't just attending classes, studying and socializing; they're also working at local homeless shelters, schools and non-profit organizations as part of their Sophomore Seminar, an honors class that focuses on community service and creative writing. They will share some of what they've learned this semester at a free spoken-word event titled Lives in Transition: Poetry, Storytelling and Reflection.

"I think that it's been a pretty powerful experience for them, and one that they want to share with the community," says Regis English professor Dr. Eleanor Swanson, who teaches the class. "I've seen some really promising work."

Lives in Transition takes place tonight at 8 p.m. in the Regis University Student Center, 3333 Regis Boulevard.

"It's been great, because it really gives you a different perspective on life. It's good to get away from school and meet people from different backgrounds," says philosophy major Frank Haug, who will be reading a poem about working at the Catholic Worker Thrift Store. "I've also learned that poetry is an art form that you have to really work at."

For further information, call 303-458-4147 or check out -- Julie Dunn

No-Hush Zone
Chautauqua's silent films speak volumes
FRI, 12/5

At most movie screenings, audiences are told to shut up during the film. But there are exceptions.Campy cult showings, for example. And then there's the Chautauqua Silent Film Series, during which viewers are encouraged to become moderately interactive. Just because the movie has no soundtrack doesn't mean there can't be any noise in the theater.

The Boulder showings include a couple of sonic layers designed to bolster the flickering black-and-white images. The versatile Hank Troy provides live musical accompaniment, just as genuine pre-talkie musicians did for films way back when. And series organizers encourage good, old-fashioned hissing and cheering by viewers, which livens up the gathering. Think Rocky Horror without squirt guns and toilet paper.

Tonight's 7 p.m. show is a double bill: Laurel and Hardy's Big Business, a 1929 goof about the duo selling Christmas trees in July, is paired with Charlie Chaplin's Gold Rush, a 1925 vehicle that allows the Yukon-bound Little Tramp to chew on plenty of comic fodder (including a stewed boot).

The films are shown at the Chautauqua Community House, 900 Baseline Road; admission is $5 for adults, $4 for children and seniors. For more information on the monthly series, which runs through April, visit -- Ernie Tucker

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd
Ernie Tucker
Contact: Ernie Tucker