He appeared to be backstroking, said the last witnesses to see artist Ray Johnson on the evening he jumped into the cold waters of Sag Harbor, Long Island. Johnson, an enigmatic figure associated with Andy Warhol's Factory -- who was friend to James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Billy Name, Chuck Close, Christo and other household names of 20th-century art -- left behind a brain-teaser in lieu of a suicide note. Piecing together the puzzle of Ray Johnson, a man who never achieved the fame of his peers, is the subject of John Walter's documentary, How to Draw a Bunny. Johnson left behind a bungalow stacked high with thousands of collages, bunny drawings and examples of the artworks he sent people through the mail.
After Johnson's death, clues, like his body, surfaced immediately. He was 67 years old. At Barren's Cove Motel, he had checked into room 247 (also adding up to 13). The beach marker near where he jumped read number 13. The date of his drowning was Friday, January 13, 1995.
Johnson's life was even more intriguing than his final hour's performance. After all, he once rented a helicopter and dropped foot-long hot dogs over Rikers Island. He was one of the last of the New Bohemian artists -- an unpredictable, anti-commerce, walking riddle, or as Billy Name proposes, "a living sculpture a Ray Johnson creation." The film premieres at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 22. On view through Sunday, May 30. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515. $5 to $6. -- Andrea Grover
Coffee and Cream
Author Pamela Davis-Noland's Coffee-Colored Dreams hit the streets this spring. Through main character Celia DuBois's search for love, the author explores the subject of race relations among African-Americans. DuBois is a dark-skinned woman, you see, and she has a knack for dating light-skinned men who like a little cream in their coffee. Davis-Noland's clear voice lends humanity to her characters' stories and puts a modern take on an age-old issue. She signs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 22. G and Z's Coffee Shop, 4420 Almeda. For information, call 713-521-0900 or visit www.pameladavisnoland.com. Free. -- Felicia Johnson-LeBlanc
New World Order
A group exhibition at McClain Gallery brings out the alien at home
The premise is simple: "What would you bring back if you visited a never-before-seen earth-like world?" This is the question asked at McClain Gallery's newest exhibition, "Brave New World." Fusing the interpretations of an accomplished group of modern artists, including the oft-celebrated Matthew Ritchie and local artist Jason Villegas, the exhibition features organic sculptures, urban-planning grids and raw colors on heavy canvases. And in examining an "earth-like" world, the pieces ultimately examine our own. Villegas's Father and Son Picnic, a sculpture featuring two Lacoste alligators enjoying a fried chicken lunch, explores the ironic juxtapositions in our modern-day brand-specific society. "It's as surreal as seeing starving kids in Sudan wearing American shirts and nothing else," says Villegas. "It's Michael Jackson and malnutrition. It's alien in concept, not physical travel -- an alien way of thinking in your mind." Opens from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 22. On view through July 3. 2242 Richmond Avenue, 713-520-9988. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
Being a food demonstrator at the local supermarket may seem like all flash and glory, but there's a dark side to doling out "krab spread" to customers in aisle four. What if the tiny spoons run out? How do you keep your game face after the dreaded "no thanks"? Such is the struggle of the brave "food education demo specialists" in Jennifer Drummond's The F.E.D.S., one of the installments at the MadCat Women's International Film Festival. You can expect many other quirky offerings on the two-day bill. 8 p.m. Saturday, May 22; and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 23. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora, 713-868-2101. $5. -- Steven Devadanam