Nude Wave 

Playful photo show at 21 Grand

9/2 - 9/26

You could almost imagine local photographer Katherine Copenhaver's latest series, Tools of the Trade -- part of her solo show opening Thursday at 21 Grand in downtown Oakland -- as part of a political ad campaign. But her portraits of women posed with the tools they use in their daily work probably missed being chosen for the stump for one pretty big reason -- the chef, welder, and architect (among other occupations) are all photographed in the nude. "That they are nude makes it more interesting to look at," Copenhaver says. "The absence of fashion statement gets down to the core of the person." The collection of three-foot-square black-and-white prints was inspired by a carpenter friend of Copenhaver's, and the vision was further realized by the beckoning of a thirty-foot blank wall at the 21 Grand gallery.

A musician as well as a photographer, Copenhaver is very interested in setting up the story inside a picture. She's been known to put herself in front of the camera along with her well-trained dog, Tara, who by now knows when to hold still and when to stay out of the frame. Copenhaver's work departs from the typical "artistic nude" and veers into playfulness (could we expect any less from the lead singer of a band named Whore?). She seems more interested in the human form as a stripped-down representation of evolution than as a suggestion of sex.

"I just do what interests me," she says. "I definitely shoot for ideas that entertain me. I like to think that it appeals to a very broad audience." One photo at 21 Grand, What's the Plan?, shows a juxtaposition of bored, naked women surrounded by their gun collection and a pile of empty beer bottles. After explaining that her "Guns" series is a meditation that reserves judgment about guns, Copenhaver laughs, "The answer is: Get more beer!"

21 Grand is at 449-B 23rd St. in Oakland. There's a reception Friday, September 3, at 7 p.m. For more info: 21Grand.org or 510-444-7263. -- Annika Dukes

9/3 - 9/30

Ill de France

The Family Circus

There are pitiless French film directors, and then there is Maurice Pialat . The late Pialat's characters -- played by Sandrine Bonnaire (he discovered her for À Nos Amours), Gérard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye, Philippe Léotard, Guy Marchand, Isabelle Huppert, and the filmmaker himself -- typically inhabit a world of suffering, often of their own making, and their motives are never easily explained. Fractious family gatherings are a specialty. People get beaten up. They have numb, joyless sex. And yet up and down his filmography, neatly laid out in a retrospective playing the Pacific Film Archive through the end of the month, are jagged little shards of unforgettable emotion amid the wreckage. Pialat's rarely seen 1969 Naked Childhood, one of several early films in the touring series, screens this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Visit BAMPFA.Berkeley.edu for details. -- Kelly Vance

Fri 9/3

Bloody Unlikely

Warning, My Bloody Valentine fans: Anybody with some cash to spare can pump guitars through a passel of pedals and find one friend who sings in a high, languorous voice and another who keeps primitive time. But to make something more than just a stoned mush pie takes songwriting chops and a certain amount of well-disguised restraint. On its newest EP, Ummo, Sacramento's Electro Group proves that though Kevin Shields may be busy counting his Lost in Translation soundtrack dollars, well-crafted shoegaze is alive and hazy in our state's fair capitol. The band plays the Mile High Friday with SF's Barbara Steele and the Moggs. 9 p.m., 510-654-4549, OaklandMileHigh.com -- Stefanie Kalem

9/4 - 10/17

Primitive Passions

Whatever it's labeled -- outsider art, naive, vernacular, folk art, etc. -- the work of artists without formal training has always fascinated art historians in search of unpolished truth. A new exhibition at Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Revelations and Reflections of Self-Taught Artists , gathers together "primitive" paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and assemblages of found materials into a compelling show, replete with vivid religious visions and unexpected humor. It opens Saturday and runs through October 17. Gallery.StMarys-ca.edu -- Kelly Vance

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