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Culture notes: Art of graffiti at Callanwolde starting Friday; Orchids runneth over at Botanical Garden starting Saturday

VISUAL ART
Art of graffiti at Callanwolde starting Friday

Graffiti forms one of those dividing lines in contemporary American life, much like presidential elections.

Some people view it as nothing more than vandalism, while others see it as street art. For evidence of the latter, just witness the number of coffee-table books focused on the topic and the growing number of graffiti artists, as well as those inspired by the painting style, who have been shown at private galleries and public museums.

For her exhibit, “Urban Works,” opening Friday at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Gallery, Tucker artist Christina Bray said she wanted to explore that conflict. But the 11 highly representational paintings themselves, some of which can be previewed on her website (www.christinabray.com), don’t make obvious which side of the divide the artist is on. Though the painterly skill with which she executes them certainly suggests some sort of emotional connection to these altered urban spaces.

When we asked Bray for her position, she was quick to share: “Actually, I do see graffiti in general as a valid art form, and I think that when it’s colorful and is technically advanced, it adds vibrancy to otherwise run-down buildings. I like the graffiti that appears on defunct industrial buildings. These sites are interesting and appealing to me, and that’s why I chose them as subjects.

“However,” she added, “I don’t condone the activities of ‘taggers’ who paint on people’s houses or businesses.”

Bray’s acrylic-on-canvas paintings, which range in size from 20 by 24 inches to 40 by 30 inches, capture some of Atlanta’s most popular canvases for graffiti, including an abandoned Glidden Paint Factory, the Pullman Rail Yard and the Krog Street tunnel. The riot of color and rot of sites such as these has also caught the attention of many photographers, who have filled online flickr sites with their images.

“I’m also interested in how each building is transformed from its original use by the addition of the graffiti,” added Bray, 40, an Atlanta native who did undergraduate studies at the old Atlanta College of Art and received masters degrees from the University of Georgia (fine arts ) and Emory University (theological studies). “I like the way each building or space retains some architectural hints of its original use but has now been converted into a sort of ‘proving ground’ for the graffiti writers.”

An opening reception for “Urban Works” will be held 7-9 p.m. Friday. Callanwolde is at 980 Briarcliff Road N.E., Atlanta. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. Through March 23. Free. 404-872-5338, www.callanwolde.org.

ATTRACTIONS
Bountiful orchids at Botanical Garden starting Saturday

The Atlanta Botanical Garden’s annual antidote for the winter blahs, Orchid Daze, opens Saturday. In the Fuqua Conservatory and Orchid Center through April 15, guests will find giant displays spilling over with phalaeonopsis, cattleyas, vandas, paphiopedilums, oncidiums and other species. Guided tours will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and Orchid Market Weekends will offer plants and merchandise for sale Feb. 4-5, March 3-4 and April 7-8. $18.95, $12.95 ages 3-12, free for under 3. 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-876-5859, www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org. HOWARD POUSNER

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