The three painters whose pieces appear in "Favorite Things" have a lot in common. Most obviously, their work here falls under the heading of "still life." More specifically, all three seem to say to the viewer, "You may think that dazzling gems of visual perfection exist only in Disney movies or in jewelry stores or when you're on drugs. You're wrong, and I can prove it." And they do.
As they engage the traditions of still life painting, Gordon Smedt, Kazaan Viveiros, and Tina Lauren Vietmeier also do what a lot of contemporary artists do: They twist everything around, mock what they appear to worship, and broadcast their lack of respect for their elders. Funny thing is, this trio manifest an unironic adoration for their media and their subjects. Smedt's thrift-shop shoes and clothes gain drama as large-scale oils, emphasizing his spectacular sense of color and detail. Viveiros brings her draftsman's eye and subdivided, planar washes of pigment to unromantic hammers and wrenches. And Vietmeier's toilet paper rolls somehow recall Cezanne's famous haystacks -- is that funny or plaintive? See for yourself through Sept. 25 at Steel Gallery, 3524 Sacramento (at Laurel), S.F. Admission is free; call 885-1655 or visit www.steelgalleryinc.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Trans phat literature
Hundreds of photographs by Mariette Pathy Allen document the existence of what some are calling a new political movement -- that is, the physical or cultural transformation of a person from one gender to another, or to an androgynous "intersex." Allen's book, The Gender Frontier, brings her images together for a look at both male-to-female and female-to-male transgendered people. The choices made by these folks are sometimes hard for others to understand: Questions range from interesting, like, "Why would a feminist want to become a man?," to dangerously ignorant. (It seemed to us, for example, that the defense attorneys on the infamous Gwen Araujo case in essence asked, "Is it OK to kill someone if he or she is transgendered?") An open-minded, up-to-date book on the subject is thus quite timely. Allen reads and discusses Frontier at 7 p.m. at A Different Light Bookstore, 489 Castro (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 431-0891 or visit www.adlbooks.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Mum's the Word
A very vintage screening
When talkies came into fashion, the death of silent films seemed assured. Once one could hear Clara Bow's adorable Brooklyn accent, who'd want to see actors soundlessly emoting? As it turns out, a modern generation of cinéastes, who love watching old-time stars like Theda Bara vamp it up in raccoon eye makeup. Best of all, a revival of the live musical accompaniment found at bygone movie palaces has joined the resurgence of interest in silents. Sample the trend with D.W. Griffith and Buster Keaton shorts at the "Not- So-Silent Film Screening" at 8 p.m. at Varnish Fine Art, 77 Natoma (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is $7; call 222-6131 or visit www.varnishfineart.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Artist Dan Piraro usually prefers to sketch pop-culture absurdities in his surreal comic strip, Bizarro, but our president's antics have him so mad that he couldn't resist lampooning the Bush administration in his new, illustrated fairy-tale sendup, The Three Little Pigs Buy the White House. Gather round for milk, cookies, and GOP-roasting as Piraro reads at 1 p.m. at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 227-8666 or visit www.cartoonart.org.
-- Joyce Slaton