Last Call For Art: Photos From Around The World; Daniel Johnston

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Wendy Watriss, artistic director for FotoFest, sums up the "International Discoveries II" exhibit nicely: "It forces our attention on the single image, an object or a single moment in life," she says. "Against the currents of instant replay and digital animations, "International Discoveries" gives voice to ... the beauty of the paper-based print."

The show, which closes this Saturday, contains work from nine photographers FotoFest staffers found while traveling to art events around the world. Among them is Vee Speers, whose work FotoFest curators saw first in Romania and later in France. Speers gives viewers images from her The Birthday Party series, images that at first glance seem to be simply capturing childhood, but further examination uncovers a darker, slightly unsafe sense to the images.

It also includes Mexico's Alejandro Cartagena, whose work was found at a portfolio review in Portland. Cartegena's contribution to the show is a series of brightly colored photographs that capture the exploding suburban development around Monterrey, Mexico. Because of the failure of government officials to regulate building and the ever expanding need for housing, more than 300,000 new homes have gone up in areas that not only lack roads and basic utilities, but that are environmentally fragile.

And China's Wei Bi, who FotoFest curators discovered at the Guangzhou 2009 Photo Biennian in Guangzho, China, explores issues of justice in his oversized, minimalist black and white photographs. Recreating his almost-three-month stay in a Chinese prison -- ironically, for making a photograph -- Wei shows viewers blankfaced, slackjawed guards and glassy eyed, shell-shocked prisoners.

Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 713-223-5522 or visit www.fotofest.org. Free.

The response have been overwhelming to Catastrophic Theatre's Life is Happy and Sad. Based on the life of musician Austenite Daniel Johnston, Happy and Sad is a prequel to the equally popular Speeding Motorcycle. Written by CT's Artistic Director Jason Nodler, Happy and Sad is based on Johnston's letters and tape recordings.

Vocalist/guitarist Matt Brownlie, formerly with Groceries and Bring Back the Guns, adds actor to his resume with this performance, one which Houston Press Music Editor Chris Gray found impressive: "His Johnston is a jittery ball of nerves whose brain is working much faster than his mouth can keep up with. His mannerisms feel dead-on -- pacing around the practice room, staring holes in his sheet music, chugging from an ever-present can of Mountain Dew, compulsively starting and stopping the tape recorder. Seated at the piano, more shouting than singing his way through Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People," Brownlie/Johnston resembles a proto-indie-rock Beethoven."

As if Brownlie's performance wasn't incentive enough to see the show, Gray reports a rumor regarding a "very special guest" who will be seen in a walk-on role during Friday' s performance. Hmmm, who could that be?

Life Is Happy and Sad runs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Diverseworks, 1117 East Freeway. Tickets are "pay what you wish"; $20 recommended. For information see www.catastrophictheater.com.

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