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Billy Solitario: Recent paintings 

These days we hear a lot about barrier islands. Long valued as breeding grounds for sea birds and other wildlife, they are increasingly prized as our first line of defense against hurricanes, as well. But they are also very delicate, take ages to form, and can disappear overnight if hit by a big enough storm. A Mississippi Gulf Coast native, Billy Solitario has long painted the barrier islands of his mind, which is to say their utmost, idealized expression as oases of powdery white sand and clear turquoise seas mirroring the billowy white clouds and azure skies above -- the barrier islands of the gods, in other words. Perhaps if we all visualize them thus, they will attain and remain in this state of idealized, perfect health and protect us against nature's more wrathful moments. His realist painting style also conveys the less buoyant realities of life on earth, in cityscapes dwarfed by mountains of storm clouds tumbling down from the stratosphere as tornadoes vie with skyscrapers for dominance of the skyline. Solitario will elaborate further in a walk-through at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, followed by an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 9 pm. It's all part of the Arts Alive series of coordinated gallery and museum openings culminating with new exhibitions and a series of performances (including the Rebirth Brass Band and Mardi Gras Indians) at the Contemporary Arts Center. (For more, see the A&E "picks" page in this issue.)
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Speaking of Saturday, Jan. 7-Feb. 24, -None-

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