The Essential A&E Picks for Mar. 3 - 9 

Laugh Attack, Tattoo Convention, Emily Wing Smith and more

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THURSDAY 3.3
Rachel Cardenas Stallings: Laugh Attack

The healing power of art is a truism that borders on cliché, and yet images still have an immediate power and intensity, even in the age of textuality. Bay Area-based artist Rachel Cardenas Stallings brought her mixed-media collection Laugh Attack to Mestizo Gallery for February Gallery Stroll. A Utah native and BYU graduate, the Colombian-American artist's work is informed by the spiritual narrative of family members bearing witness to visitations from spirits, and shamanic personages prescribing medicinal substances.

The subject matter of these visionary experiences is manifested in her artistic pieces, which are sometimes figurative, animalistic or human, or sometimes are abstract, almost in the form of pure energy. There is a sense of impulsiveness, that the paint isn't just an artistic medium but is also a "medium" in the metaphysical sense, in the revelatory, discursive quality of these works. But the viewer doesn't ever have a sense of voyeurism. Perhaps, it's because there is a shared, communal feeling to the works or because of the sense of whimsy that the exhibit's title implies. Yet, it's also an "attack"—a bit convulsive, almost uncontrolled, as though the artist's brush has been taken over, possessed. It's not violent, but highly assertive in its presence.

Stylistically, there are echoes of cubism, surrealism and Latin American folk art in her works, but there is also a dazzling sense of originality and daring. These shared visions are definitely eye-opening. (Brian Staker)
Rachel Cardenas Stallings: Laugh Attack @ Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts, 631 W. North Temple, Ste. 700., 801-596-5000, through March 11. MestizoArts.org

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FRIDAY 3.4
SLC International Tattoo Convention

It's early March, which means the annual SLC International Tattoo Convention is slated to take over the Salt Palace for a weekend of magnificent artistic achievements, expressed through displays and on actual skin. More than 200 professional tattoo artists will populate the convention floor, many visiting from across the country and around the globe. Visiting shops include Tattoo 08/15 from Germany, Polynesian Tattoo Factory of Hawaii, Everlasting Tattoo from San Francisco and Shin Kemumaki from Japan.

Convention goers can peruse aisles of artwork and talk with the designers themselves about their style, technique, process and inks. You'll see designs from the weird and freaky to the intricate and detailed, cartoonish to realism, popular to obscure, involving every kind of traditional and more modern application practiced by those who have spent their lives learning how to make awesome art pop on human skin. And if by chance you like something you see, you can hop in a chair and get some fresh ink from a professional you might never have known about otherwise.

It wouldn't be a Salt Lake City convention without local representation, and this year includes a lineup of who's who of Utah-based shops, such as Lost Art, Loyalty, Anchor Ink, Ironclad, Big Deluxe, Painted Temple, Cathedral, Heart of Gold, Yellow Rose, King of Swords and more. And they'll be ready to ink you up at a moment's notice. (Gavin Sheehan)
SLC International Tattoo Convention @ Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 W. South Temple, March 4-6, Friday, 3-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-8 p.m., $5-$40. SLCTattoo.com

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FRIDAY 3.4
Plan-B Theatre Co.: Based on a True Story

Particles drift and dart around the darkened set at the beginning of Plan-B Theatre Co.'s world premiere of Elaine Jarvik's Based on a True Story. It's a place of isolation, a limbo between past and future, yet as the play unfolds, it becomes a metaphor for how scary it can be to be in the present.

Time travel is at the center of the story, which finds a woman named Megan (Nell Gwynn) inadvertently hurled 30 years into the future when her "time taxi" malfunctions. Unable to return to her own time—and the husband (Mark Fossen) she left behind—she becomes a kind of refugee, assisted in her transition by a pair of volunteers (Jason Bowcutt and Colleen Baum).

Jarvik explores several variations on themes suggested by the title, including how comforting fictions become more valuable to us than the truth. The production provides plenty of entertainment—much of it coming from Colleen Baum's versatility, as she plays eight different characters—as it digs into how hard it can be to avoid looking behind or forward as we try to cope with loss. While Jarvik unfortunately spells out her subtext a bit too literally near the end, and indulges in several Utah-specific nudging jokes, she finds a powerfully human story in how hard it can be to make peace with where we find ourselves right now. (Scott Renshaw)
Plan-B Theatre Co.: Based on a True Story @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through March 6, Thursday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. & 5:30 p.m., sold out at press time, pre-paid wait list available at box office. PlanBTheatre.org

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TUESDAY 3.8
Emily Wing Smith: All Better Now

The photo on the cover of young-adult fiction author Emily Wing Smith's memoir All Better Now is instantly unsettling: the school picture of an elementary school girl in frilly dress and pigtails, yet wearing an expression of almost heartbreaking sadness. That same childhood sadness permeates a story that takes a uniquely powerful approach to a "survival" narrative.

Because it does prove remarkable that Smith survived, on multiple levels. Beginning with a childhood defined by isolation, loneliness, aggression and physical difficulties that had her in therapy for years, she leads up to a near-fatal accident where she was hit by a car when she was 12 years old. It was only through the subsequent CAT scan that doctors discovered a brain tumor that likely would have killed her—but adolescence doesn't become instantly easier for the one who becomes known as "Thank-God-She-Got-Hit-By-A-Car Girl."

Smith tells her story with a combination of almost clinical distance—including the text from actual medical assessments of her condition—and wistful reflection on her ever-present sense of being the "weird girl" with no friends. But it's also the tale of a writer finding her voice, not only discovering the rare thing she believes she's good at, but making her first real connections as a result. The combination makes for a story that finds the universal sense of disconnection and "differentness" in her very specific experiences, reminding readers of the time when they felt like that girl on the cover. (SR)
Emily Wing Smith: All Better Now @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, March 8, 7 p.m. KingsEnglish.com

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SATURDAY 3.5
Bill T. Jones Dance/Arnie Zane Co.: Analogy/Dora: Tramontane

Sometimes it's not easy to distill the genre to which a piece of art belongs: Is it a dance performance? Is it a concert? Is it a theatrical play? These can be among the most fascinating works to experience, as artists interweave multiple disciplines to create something with a unique power that draws from each discipline's strengths.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Co. creates such a work with Analogy/Dora: Tramontane, a mix of dance, music and spoken-word performance. Inspired by the life of Tony Award-winner Jones' own mother-in-law, 95-year-old Holocaust survivor and French/Jewish nurse Dora Amelan, the company explores her story through choreography and excerpts from interviews; the dancers even sing as part of the performance. Memory, survival and perseverance become part of a narrative with the power to move an audience through all the tools at a performer's disposal. (Scott Renshaw)
Bill T. Jones Dance/Arnie Zane Co.: Analogy/Dora: Tramontane @ Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, March 5, 7:30 p.m., $25-$75. EcclesCenter.org

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