Stressed-out, exhausted, jubilant, relieved and quite possibly inebriated graduates will be in attendance -- along with their art, of course -- at this Friday's opening of the "2004 Masters of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition" at the Blaffer Gallery. The show is the culmination of the University of Houston's three-year MFA program and is always a great chance to see fresh work by emerging artists. Some of the standouts include Steve Neves's giant Medusa head, which re-creates the Greek mythological figure with a twist, incorporating industrial materials and working televisions into her killer visage. Meanwhile, Joe Ives makes witty art out of absurd, obsessive problem solving -- just imagine packing-crate staircases that lead to nowhere. In other past-confronts-present works, Soody Sharifi digitally inserts photographed figures into 15th-century Persian miniature paintings, with the results depicting contemporary Iranian girls in chadors showing pictures of Eminem to their 15th-century counterparts. Also in the digital realm, Bonnie Smith Newman's photographs appropriate images of Wonder Woman, placing the heroine-sexpot in Houston environments. And Christopher Talbot's panoramic photographs revisit the 1,000-mile walk his apparently hardy ancestors made from Iowa City, Iowa, to High Plains, Wyoming. (Talbot wisely drove instead of walking.)
One of the best ways to learn about the works is to ask the artists themselves. If you miss them at the opening, they will be talking about their works in a series of lunchtime conversations at the Blaffer Gallery at noon on March 30 and 31, and on April 1, 6 and 8. The exhibition opens from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, March 26. Through Sunday, April 11. 120 Fine Arts Building, University of Houston, 713-743-9530. Free. -- Kelly Klaasmeyer
Lettuce Get It On
Think you know your lettuce? Then surely you know that grocery-store iceberg is the Chevy of lettuce, red leaf is a well-equipped Acura and the crimson-leafed Merveille des Quatre Saisons is a Rolls Royce. You'll fit right in with Camille Waters, Houston's maven of from-the-ground, straight-to-plate greens. Her salads adorn the plates of Houston's toniest eateries, and she's become a darling of the local and national press. Waters's annual garden party features local chefs transforming her heirloom roughage and edible flowers into gourmet dishes, as well as live jazz, big hat contests and a kiss-a-pug booth. "It's still a picnic for everyone," says Waters. "We even sit on bales of hay." 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 28. Camille Waters's Gardens, 610 Jackson Hill at Blossom. For information, call 713-880-5540. $30. -- Steven Devadanam
Stand Up Straight
If your favorite science textbook can be found in the top drawer of any hotel room across the nation, then the Human Origins lecture series probably isn't for you. The professors giving these talks aren't satisfied with explanations along the lines of "Presto! And then there was man." The series kicks off this week with a discussion by Craig Stanford, a professor of anthropology and biology at the University of Southern California and the director of the Bwindi-Impenetrable Great Ape Project in Uganda. (His project is called BIGAPE for short, which is, we're sorry to say, a classic example of Bastardized Acronym Denotation.) In his lecture, Stanford will discuss recent research on where and why humans began to stand upright. We doubt it had anything to do with being able to reach the collection plate. 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 30. Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $12 to $15. -- Keith Plocek
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Like Mother, Like Daughter
A family spins through the cycle in Love and Diane
Most of us feel the same way about Child Protective Services as we do about cops and tow-truck drivers: These people are necessary for society, yes, but we sure as hell don't want them knocking on our door. So it goes with the title characters of Jennifer Dworkin's new film, Love and Diane. As a child, Love told a teacher that her mother, Diane, was a drug addict, and away Love went to a foster home. Now Love has her own child who might be taken away from her, all because of Diane's well-intentioned confessions to a therapist. Mix in the fact that Love is HIV-positive, and you've got a seriously heart-wrenching tale. The film screens as part of the Houston International AIDS Film Festival. 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 30. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora. For a full schedule of films and venues, call 832-822-1366 or visit www.bayloraids.org. $7. -- Keith Plocek
Bibliophiles, welcome to heaven. There will be over 80,000 books for sale on every subject imaginable at this weekend's Bargain Book Sale at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Yep, that's right: 80,000. But before you hop in your bookmobile and head out, you might want to make an appointment with a masseuse. After all, you're going to have one helluva sore neck by the time you're done perusing all those shelves with your head tilted sideways. Special first-dibs preview for members of Friends of the Houston Public Library 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, March 26. $20. Open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 27; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 28. 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, call 832-393-1387 or visit www.friendsofhpl.org. Free. -- Keith Plocek