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On Friday, we're stopping by Camargo Valentino's new exhibit "Personalities and Provocateurs." Valentino's eye-catching style is something akin to Sir Francis Bacon meets Stan Lee. The exhibit's named after superheroes and cartoon characters, often the subject of Valentino's work. Don't let the subject matter fool you, though; he might be painting Batman, but he's doing it with classical technique. "He mixes together Darth Vader with a Velazquez pose," says Angel Quesada of Talento Bilingüe de Houston. "He'll take Frances Bacon, stick in Mickey Mouse ears and a 'Hello, My Name is Frances' name badge. He's not coming at it from a highbrow prospective, he's coming at it with, 'This is what I like and I'm putting it in there.' It's really quite charming."

Charming, yes, but there's also a bit of an edge. In Pope Not So Innocent X, Valentino shows the pope in a a classical pose, one that would be typical of a Velazquez painting. In a pop culture reference, Valentino has added a Guy Fawkes mask, like the one seen in the film V for Vendetta, which hints at a subversive rather than benevolent character.

See "Personalities and Provocateurs" 10 a.m. to to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Through March 10. Talento Bilingüe de Houston, 333 South Jensen. For information, visit www.tbhcenter.org or call 713-222-1213.

On Saturday, we'll be in the front row at An Afternoon with Daniel Black. We're anxious to hear more about Black's novel Perfect Peace. The book has a startling premise: A mother so wants a daughter she decides to raise her youngest son as a girl, to the ultimate dismay of her large, rural family. Emma Jean wants to shower her daughter with all the love she never received; instead, what she does is strip her young son of his identity. Paul becomes Perfect, only to have his true identity revealed when he's eight years old. Overnight, Perfect is forced to become Paul again, leaving his six brothers (who have offbeat names such as King Solomon, Mister and Authorly) reeling, with his own self-image damaged perhaps beyond repair.

Set in 1930s rural Arkansas, Perfect Peace is alternately heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. The devastation Emma Jean so freely wreaks on her loved ones in order to satisfy her own unmet needs is appalling. Paul's confusion as he moves from the soft, sheltered female world to the hard, brutal male existence is tragic. But the strength Paul shows as he moves forward, despite his grotesque beginnings, is a thing of wonder.

During Saturday's session, Daniel Black reads from and discusses Perfect Peace. 1 p.m. Houston Public Library, Central, 500 McKinney. For information, visit www.houstonlibrary.org or call 832-393-1313.

Sunday, we're off to Constructions of Art & Faith: The Byzantine Fresco Chapel and The Menil Collection. The day the frescos are to be returned to their original home, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, is fast approaching and the Menil Foundation wants to make sure they're sent off in grand fashion.

The Menil Collection's Director, Josef Helfenstein, will moderate the discussion by art historian Annemarie Weyl Carr, organizer of the exhibit "Imprinting the Divine: Byzantine and Russian Icons from The Menil Collection"; theologian William Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace; and anthropologist Pamela Smart, author of the book Sacred Modern: Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in The Menil Collection. The discussion will center on the intersection of art and faith in the Collection's holdings.

The discussion on Constructions of Art & Faith: The Byzantine Fresco Chapel and The Menil Collection is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross. For information, visit www.menil.org or call 713-525-9400.

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