Welcome to the Dollhouse: Specializing in “figurative pop and urban surrealism,” Distinction Gallery this month is importing United Kingdom-based artist Jana Brike for The Lost Children, her first major show on this side of the Atlantic. The 29-year-old's art—nurtured at the Art Academy of Latvia—involves nightmarish doll-children, many of whom have had body parts removed and replaced with wood, trapped in creepily decorated nursery rooms. Some of the works include children playing with dead animals as if they were toys. Brike ranks about an 8.5 out of 10 on our creep-o-meter, somewhere between Neil Gaiman and a Tool video. The show opens with a reception at the Escondido art space, 317 E. Grand Ave., from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 8, and runs through June 5. www.distinctionart.com.
Eight-legged freaks: This month, Subtext Gallery is bringing in a third-generation Japanese-American illustrator who's become a bolo-tie-wearing New Mexican living in Santa Fe to show off his latest Joseph Campbell-inspired paintings of octopuses. Sound strange? Yeah, we're not exactly sure what Subtext is thinking, except maybe that octopuses—with their eight legs, suction cups, camouflage, jet propulsion and the ability to squirt ink—are wicked awesome and oddly cute. Joel Nakamura will debut Tako Niwa (in English, “Octopus Garden”), a collection of new works at an opening reception from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, May 7, at the gallery and design bookstore, 2479 Kettner Blvd. in Little Italy. The show, which seems to have everything to do with playing with mythological symbolism and nothing to do with the Beatles' song written by Ringo Starr, runs through June 6. www.subtextgallery.com.
Hip to be square: For almost 30 years, Leslie Nemour has been producing evocative oil paintings that have been displayed in galleries across San Diego. While you'd need a warehouse-size space to accommodate a retrospective of all her work, the gallery area of Sushi Performance and Visual Art (390 11th Ave. in East Village) will display more than 100 of her “Television Portraits” as part of L7: An Installation of Paintings by Leslie Nemour. Nemour's paintings serve as the artistic rendering of hitting the pause button while watching television. Stills of everything from reality shows and nature documentaries to boxing matches and natural-disaster footage will be hung in the gallery in what Sushi describes as an “unconventional manner” so as to preserve the rebellious spirit of the artist. The show is up now, but you should hit up the artist reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 8. www.sushiart.org.
Food & Drink
Chocolate-y goodness: Sure, people have weaknesses. For some, it might be something inedible, but for most it's usually some kind of food—often, chocolate. And for good reason, too—it's delicious. For those who just can't say no, beware of the Chocolate Festival at the San Diego Botanic Garden (230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas). From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 8, chocolatiers will take over the gardens, offering tasters and demos of their finest creations. Try chocolate from Sinful Creations, Sweet Treats, Dallmann Confections, California Cupcake and more. Plus, they'll have crafts for the kiddos and vendors selling gifts for Mom (in case you forgot, Mother's Day is the very next day). The fest is free with paid admission into the gardens; taster tickets start at $1. www.sdbgarden.org.
Painting the roses red: Think that gardening's the domain of retired folks? Getting dirty in the garden is the new hip way to pass the time. Need some inspiration to help your garden grow? From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 8, the Mission Hills Garden Club hosts its 2010 Garden Walk. The walk is roughly one mile, roundtrip, and includes stops at 12 gardens. There'll be pastries from Cardamom Bakery, coffee from It's a Grind and gourmet food from Chile Co. available for purchase along the route, plus a complimentary wine and cheese reception starting at 2 p.m. back at Mission Hills Nursery (and 20 percent off plants for ticket holders). Tickets are $25 apiece or $30 day-of. See www.missionhillsgardenclub.org for purchase information.
Guitar hero: Jazzman Charlie Hunter has received accolades from everyone from Rolling Stone and Guitar Player to The New York Times and The Onion for his guitar playing and unique approach to the genre—he's widely known for playing a custom-made guitar that allows him to play both inimitable solos as well as bass parts. Hunter's newest album, Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid, was recorded live with no mixing or overdubs with a band that features members of TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Jazz Passengers. He'll have that band in tow when he plays two shows at The Loft at UCSD at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, May 7. $12-$20. www.artpwr.com.
Your mother's struggle: Though you wouldn't know it by reading the Union-Tribune's editorial page, these days, Americans are generally pro-environment. But it wasn't always that way. If you're younger than, say, 55 and aren't a student of environmental history, you might not be aware of the depth of the battle in which environmentalists were engaged between the 1950s and 1970s. Learn all about it when the local chapter of the Sierra Club screens Earth Days, a documentary by Robert Stone that charts the movement's progress from the early days through the second Bush administration. The film starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, at the Sierra Club office (8304 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa), but if you're feeling social, a brown-bag mixer starts at 6 p.m.—just bring your own brown bag, preferably filled with your favorite snacks. 858-569-6005.
Prom night, take two: Stop reading for a minute and think about your prom night. Horrible flashback? Sorry about that. OK, now start reading again. If you're one of those people who remembers prom as being just totally God-awful and have longed for a do-over, the time has come. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, May 7, re-live prom night at Vintage Prom, brought to you by the hip folks behind the Urbanist Guide and the adorably retro Pearl Hotel (1410 Rosecrans St. in Point Loma). They envision prom as a mixture of decades past (from the '50s to the '90s), so make sure you arrive in appropriate attire. No contemporary clothing allowed! All proceeds go to the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation. Pre-sale tickets are $25 per couple or $15 single. www.pearlhotelsd.com.