A fantastical homage to Vincent van Gogh is the focus of Mi Raza Arts Consortium's annual El Dia de los Muertos festivities; exhibitions at a number of galleries make up a tribute to the Dutch painter on the centenary of his death. Van Gogh is not a traditional Mexican object of celebration, but organizer Jose Gonzales was inspired by a recent trip to the Netherlands. At A.R.C. Gallery (1040 W. Huron; 733-2787), Gonzales is curating a variety of works dedicated to van Gogh. He also constructed a room-sized altar installation at Artemisia Gallery (700 N. Carpenter; 226-7323). A mural titled Vincent y el barrio by Hector Duarte will be on display at N.A.M.E. (700 N. Carpenter; 226-0671). N.A.M.E. is also putting on a poetry reading tonight at 8 (the cost for this is $6, $4 for gallery members and students). Objects Gallery (230 W. Huron; 664-6622) will have an altar installation by James Mesple. All four galleries will have opening receptions tonight from 5 to 8 (N.A.M.E.'s starts at 6); except for the poetry reading, it's all free. The exhibits at A.R.C. and N.A.M.E. run through December 1, the other two through November 16.
Suicide survivors? That's the term the American Association of Suicidology uses to describe those bereaved by a suicide among family or friends. According to the association, there are nearly 200,000 suicide survivors left from 30,000 bridge jumpers, poison ingesters, gas inhalers, and self-inflicted-head-wounders each year. The second annual Healing After Suicide conference opens tonight at the Midland Hotel, 172 W. Adams. Registration begins at 6; the keynote speech, at 7:45, is by Iris Bolton on "Sharing of Healing and Hope." The conference goes through noon Sunday. It costs $115. Call the association at 303-692-0985 for details.
When they fall out of favor, Sandinistas--like Democrats, Republicans, and Anita Bryant--hit the lecture circuit. Seems about half of the old Sandinista leadership is in town this week. Ernesto Cardenal, the one-time Nicaraguan minister of culture, appears tonight at an 8 PM fund-raising dance for the FSLN at the Hot House, 1569 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $10, $12 at the door. Call 728-5561. And tomorrow he'll read from his poetry at the United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse. The suggested donation is $8; call the same number for info. And later this week, Miguel D'Escoto, the Maryknoll priest who served as Nicaragua's foreign minister and got suspended by the pope for his trouble, is speaking at a couple of venues. Wednesday night at 7, he'll be in room 154 of the Schmitt Academic Center, 2323 N. Seminary on the DePaul campus. There's a $5 requested donation, $15 if you want to go to the 6 PM reception. Thursday, he'll be speaking at 9 AM at Saint Peters Roman Catholic Church, 110 W. Madison. That's $15, and includes breakfast. Make the recommended reservations at 663-4398.
"Funnier than A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is what the people at The Stars Our Destination bookstore, 2942 N. Clark, say about Good News: The Nice and Accurate Predictions of Alice Nutter, Witch. The book is by sci-fi writers Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, who're in town for this weekend's World Fantasy Convention at the Woodfield Hyatt. Gaiman and Pratchett will be at The Stars Our Destination to sign their book from noon to 2 today. It's free; call 871-2722 for information.
Dark political funkster Gil Scott-Heron is doing two shows at Biddy Mulligan's tonight, at 7 and 11--the early show is for all ages. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Biddy's is at 7644 N. Sheridan. Call 761-6532 for details.
Women poets and women composers are on the program for tonight's lecture and recital by the midwest chapter of American Women Composers. Mezzo-soprano and scholar Suzanne Sommerville will sing a variety of works, most notably three duets she recently uncovered in Berlin by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Felix's sister). She'll be accompanied by soprano Solange Soir-Bieber and pianist Patrick Sinozich. Also on the program are poems by Charlotte Bronte. The recital is at 3 at the Goodspeed Recital Hall, 5845 S. Ellis at the University of Chicago. It's free, and there's a reception after the performance. Call 667-0576 for more information.
The 17th annual Art of Cuisine, a big-ticket fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society, runs from 6 to 9 tonight at the 750 N. Orleans gallery building. Put together by the ACS women's board, it's the fanciest smorgasbord you've ever seen: ticket holders munch on foodstuffs from Blue Mesa, Burhop's, Lawry's, Shaw's Crab House, and Bistro 110. Pianist Michael Laird provides the entertainment. Tix are a hundred bucks; call 372-0471 for information.
Plans for the Playhouse--"the after-hours choice for women"--have it functioning as an educational and social center for women. Directors J. Summer Allyn, J.C. Willis, and Yvonne Welbon are planning on an opening next year, but they've decided to show the place off with a one-week preview that begins tonight. Mystic Monday features lectures on spirit guides and on feng shui, the "ancient Chinese art of placement." Tomorrow, there's a workshop on a humorous approach to financial planning. And Wednesday is an evening of "interactive lecture, video, and discussion on S and M." Monday and Tuesday classes run 7 to 9, with cocktails at 6; Wednesday's session runs 6 to 10 (cocktails throughout). Admission on Monday or Tuesday is $20, Wednesday $15. The temporary home of the Playhouse is 738 W. Randolph; more info at 335-1267.
"A sociopolitical discourse on the history of discomfort" is the subtitle for a four-part reading series at Club Lower Links this month. Men Are Such Cunts is the full title for the series, which happens Tuesdays in November. Tonight is "The History of Mean Boyfriends"; November 13, it's "The History of Feminine Hygiene Deodorants"; November 20, "The History of Bad Schools and Bad Blow Jobs"; November 27, "The History of David Sedaris." Readers include Patrick Trettenero, Arnold Aprill, Cheryl Trykv, Andrew Patner, Toni Schlesinger, and scads of others. All at 954 W. Newport, starting each night at 8:30. It's $4; call 248-9496 for information.
Dysautonomia--a disease carried by 1 in 30 Ashkenazi Jews--is a nervous-system crippler: children born with it can't feel pain, have fluctuating blood pressure and temperature, get pneumonia repeatedly, and develop curvature of the spine. They even lack an ability to form tears. There's currently no carrier test for dysautonomia, but a scientist at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital says a marker for the disease may be found within three years. The Illinois chapter of the Dysautonomia Foundation is holding a fund-raiser tonight at the Chicago Historical Society. $75 gets you cocktails, a tour of CHS exhibits, a buffet dinner, and dancing to the big-band sounds of the Golden Nuggets. Cocktails start at 6 PM at the CHS building, Clark and North. Call 764-8224 for more information.
"As ornament is no longer organically linked to our culture, it is also no longer an expression of our culture." Austrian architect Adolf Loos railed against ornamentation throughout his career and in his noted book, Ornament and Crime. He tied his interest in unadornment to the sleek outlines of modern architecture; though his work is not well known outside his homeland, he is considered one of the fathers of modernism. Lack of ornament, he said, "is a sign of spiritual strength. Modern man . . . concentrates his powers of invention on other things." Loos is the subject of a free talk tonight by Anton Schweighofer, an Austrian architect who's chairman of the Adolf Loos Research Association and currently a visiting professor of architecture at Washington University in Saint Louis. It starts at 8 at the Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton. Call 787-4071.
A three-day cigar party begins today at the Up Down Tobacco Shop in Old Town. On the schedule: demonstrations by the world's greatest hand cigar roller, a longest-ash contest, cigar trivia (presented by a representative from the famous cigar-making Fuente family), tips from cigar connoisseurs, and raffles galore to help celebrate Cigar Lovers' Week 1990. The free events run from 2 to 8 today, 3 to 9 tomorrow, and noon to 5 Saturday at the Up Down Tobacco Shop, 1550 N. Wells. Call 337-8505 for details.