Petal Pusher 

Floral excavations at Nexus

9/4-9/7

Plucky Oakland artist Lori Beth Katz takes a rigorous hike every morning, collecting a few flowers or pretty leaves that swirl around her along the way -- and then she whirls back to her painting studio where she re-creates the color, grace, and movement that she has seen in nature. "I'm really drawn to flowers because of their pattern, their texture, their color, their rhythm," she says. "So many elements of them hold me." The subject matter is ages old, but Katz infuses a fresh take by approaching her oil-on-wood flowerscapes like a botanist, an archaeologist, or a sculptor. Seeing her work as a kind of weaving, she creates layers and layers of paint, then burnishes back down areas to reveal their predecessors underneath, creating a flurry of abstraction amid the realistic images of petal and stem. The result is art that offers a new interpretation with each look. "One day I had an opening in Sacramento," she says, "and this little girl was there, about ten years old, she had never been to an art show. She said, 'Oh my God, I see a horse!' And she was right. Once she pointed it out to me, I absolutely saw this horse head. She was a little embarrassed, but to me that's like the magic of it."

Katz creates new flowers by combining parts of different species -- a petal from one, the center of another. "I really like taking tiny tiny little flowers and making them giant flowers, so that people are taken to a new level of what that flower could be." She is unapologetic for creating paintings that aren't making a political statement, but are simply beautiful and complex. "To me," she says, "there can be beauty and mystery together."

See the work of Katz, ceramic sculptor Joel Mesnikoff, and painter Carole Jeung during their reception at the Nexus Gallery on Friday, September 5, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 2701 8th St., Berkeley. The show runs Thursday through Sunday. Info: 510-632-2943. -- Katy St. Clair

FRI 9/5

Austin's Blue

Say no to jugs

When a band gets big in Austin, y'all should take note. After all, you can't spill a beer in that town without messing up a musician's last clean shirt, and once a year the city turns into a meet-and-greet retreat for the entire record industry. Though the South Austin Jug Band don't really feature a jug, they really are from Austin, and they make a kind of joyful noise that seems made of pure sunlight and moonshine. The five young members mix up a bluegrass-fueled truckload of traditionals, and originals that run the gamut from saucily romantic ("My Baby in the Sunshine") to tongue-in-cheek ("The Ballad of Eddie Mullet"). SAJB plays at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, with the Boy Oh'Boys. 9:30 p.m., $7. 510-841-2082. -- Stefanie Kalem

SUN 9/7

Watch! Words!

Watchword publisher Danielle Jatlow is a literary agent by day and fighter for the artistically underserved by night. According to the mission statement of Watchword the press and Watchword the magazine, she and editor Amanda L. Green aim to "publish emerging writers who are generally underrepresented by the larger, market-driven, commercial publishing houses." Tonight at Watchword Issue Five Release Party at Oasis Restaurant and Bar (135 12th St., Oakland), contributors Jamie Berger, Amanda Eicher, Evan Rehill, and Nina Schuyler will read. There will also be live music, drink specials, and a raffle, and the fun starts at 5 p.m. $5-$15. 415-407-2952 -- Stefanie Kalem

SAT 9/6

It Figgers

As long as people sculpt, they'll keep sculpting people. This no-brainer of a truism is perfectly personified by New Leaf Gallery's current exhibit, Focus on the Figure , which brings together more than twenty artists working in bronze, ceramics, stone, glass, steel, mixed media, and more, all incorporating the timeless subject of the human form. The majority of the show's work is in bronze, including four pieces by John Denning, whose work (including Veiled Horse Veiled Ride, above) combines man and animal in striking ways. New Leaf is located at 1286 Gilman St., Berkeley, and the show runs through Nov. 9. 510-525-7621 -- Stefanie Kalem

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