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Desolate imagery focus of exhibit

These are trying times.

And that's a reason to go to the 516 Arts reception Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.

"Cautionary Tales: A Visual Dystopia" features artists exposing the dire situation of our planet, which is much of our own doing.

Although it's a horrific subject, the artists' execution of color and imagery is beautiful.

There will be live gypsy samba music performed by Zoltan Orkestar, and many of the artists and poets are expected to attend. There will also be a poetry workshop held by Miriam Sagan on Sept. 13 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. that will feature readings from Book Lung, a magnificently oversized book filled with poetry that is also a part of the "Cautionary Tales" exhibition. More than 20 poets have worked on this piece alone. And on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m., there will be gallery talk with the artists.

Curator Holly Roberts came up with the idea for "Cautionary Tales" through her own work. She noticed her artwork becoming a vessel for learning about the world.

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"My work was taking a more learning edge," she said. "I noticed other artists going in this direction as well."

Once Roberts had figured out her path, she began to find artists online, through art exhibits and through friends she knew would be perfect for the exhibition.

One such artist - and curator of the upstairs exhibition "Finding a Pulse" - is Rhiannon Mercer. She graduated in 2006 from UNM with an MFA in painting and drawing. She has three paintings in "Cautionary Tales." Her works are a haunting experience. She depicts burned landscapes and bomb shelters with rich colors, darkness and harsh brush strokes.

"I was seeking disturbed landscapes and sort of barren places filled with scars," she said. "I was inspired by things like the fires that had taken place. I would see how the scars and colors changed and yet still had remarkable aesthetic qualities in an interestingly morbid way."

Mercer not only brought the look of these landscapes to her paintings but the feel of them as well.

"I had the desire to imitate the aggressive way of making marks using brush strokes," she said. "I gave it more of a matte feel rather than the average shiny painting."

Her colors seem to bleed off the canvas.

"With the things we are trying to do today to fix our problems, we can feel secure maybe for a few moments," she said. "But in truth, when all else fails, what else can we do but shoot ourselves off the planet or go underground?"

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