Mexican American Redefinition: Gabriella Varela: What's little discussed in contemporary critiques of American race relations is the role the mass media play in remaking ethnic minorities into very distinct (and oft-times outlaw) types. Texas artist Gabriella Varela, who recently received her visual arts degree from Rice University, is a second-generation Mexican-American woman who's preoccupied with trying to find an essential Latina identity. Mexican American Redefinition is a one-woman show of her photographs that have been combined with everyday objects of her own life. Varela asks questions at every turn about what makes a Latina identity in late-20th-century America. The show runs through September 26 at Dallas Visual Art Center. Call (214) 821-2522.
Intimate Exchanges: As anyone who's been involved in a long-term monogamous relationship can tell you, the tiniest gestures and rituals exchanged between two people, while apparently innocent, are often heavy with both love and antagonism. Alan Ayckbourn, Britain's most popular living farceur and a man who delights in revealing the frayed insides of the civilized middle class, chronicles the saga of two middle-aged married couples and the travails of their attempted communication in a pair of plays called Confessions in a Garden Shed and A Cricket Match. Collectively titled Intimate Exchanges, these plays mix and match Anglo parlor-room tableaux as two actors portray eight different characters in 16 different situations. Performances happen Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m. through October 5 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard. Tickets are $11-$49. Call (214) 522-TIXX.
Jon Nakamatsu: Not only is Jon Nakamatsu the first American in 16 years to have won the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, he didn't even have any conservatory training. This Stanford graduate, who had been taking private piano lessons since he was 6, was a high school teacher in Sunnyvale, California, when he won last June. He's now receiving invitations from places such as Rio de Janeiro and Berlin for headline performances. The institution that bestowed upon him his good fortune and celebrity has now tapped Nakamatsu to open the 1997-'98 season of Cliburn Concerts with a program that includes Clementi, Chopin, Bolcom, and Liszt. The performance happens at 8 p.m. in the Ed Landreth Auditorium on the Texas Christian University Campus, Fort Worth. Call (817) 335-9000.
Concentrations 30: Mariko Mori, Play With Me: North Texas' own Nic Nicosia and New York self-diarist Cindy Sherman built national reputations with large, colorful, often sinister and sexy photographs that seemed to contain entire plots. Mariko Mori takes a leaf from both of their books--especially Sherman's, who wedges herself into the action--by creating large-scale photographs that are part anime tribute, part feminist commentary. Concentrations 30: Mariko Mori, Play With Me is an exhibit of enormous photos by Mariko, whose previous career experiences as a fashion model scream out of the commercial gloss of the images. The women she portrays are almost all mechanical "love dolls" in elaborate, sometimes futurist public situations. The show runs through November 9 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Call (214) 922-1200.
Passionate Grace: In today's U.S. Protestant church and, to a lesser extent, the contemporary American Catholic Church, the idea of gaining grace and strength through suffering has become passe, since for many middle-class Americans, suffering itself is no longer a reality. When biology rears its ugly head through cancer or AIDS, we view it as a failure of science, not an opportunity for tapping into a higher presence. Virginia-born artist Edward Knippers returns a certain dark glamour to Christianity with Passionate Grace, a show of his somber but colorful meditations on Biblical themes. Want an example? One gigantic piece, The Crowning With Thorns (Christ is Mocked), features Jesus' torn body writhing in agony, with a wine glass full of the blood he must shed to the side. The show runs through November 6 at the Biblical Arts Center, 7500 Park Lane. Call (214) 691-4661.