Sometimes good things just keep on getting better. With about 170 working artists to choose from, scattered far and wide across greater Tucson, making the most of this past weekend’s Open Studio Tour was a massive and inspiring challenge. Since I have a number of close friends who are accomplished Tucson artists, I have a pleasant but unfortunate tendency to park myself at a colleague’s studio for half the tour, spend a delightful afternoon chatting and sipping wine, thereby missing out on so much of what the tour has to offer. This year, I was determined to get out, see more and do more, and I did.
On Friday I profiled a few of my favorite local Tucson artists in The Logical Lizard, including Lisa Marie Morrison of Sirocco Design, Suzanne Morrison of Backcountry Photography and photographer Stu Jenks, and much of Saturday was spent visiting with them. On Sunday I made it a mission to meet some new artists, see some new work, and maybe add an original or two to the Logical Lizard’s modest art collection. These were some of my personal highlights:
Chris Bishop of maidenarizona.com, is a transplant from New Jersey and her artistic journey to Arizona reminded me more than a little of my own. She is interested in everything from photo mosaics to creative desert landscaping. Chris invited five women artists to help transform her home studio on North Monroe Crescent into a two-day indoor/outdoor art show encompassing watercolors, textiles, mosaics, found-art collage, and other mixed media. She has gathered a fine group of talented people around her and I was particularly impressed by art teacher and fiber artist Jacqueline Bland, and Joanne Pritzen’s colorful mixed media found art collages that somehow managed to happily reminded me of both Roy Lichtenstein and Kurt Schwitters in the same instant (Twosies, a lovely vibrant piece that was featured in the TPAC guide came home with me).
Later in the afternoon I took a long drive down to Pantano and Escalante to view some impressive large works by metal sculptor and blacksmith Jason E. Butler. Jason was at the JCC unveiling a new work, and I was treated to a tour of his workshop by his wife Mary. Jason also teaches metal working at Pima Community College and his sculpture is an intriguing blend of organic and industrial elements.
Elizabeth Frank is an artist’s artist. Widely admired within the community, she works with fallen aspen branches (collected during an annual pilgrimage to Colorado) and found objects such as discarded tin ceiling plates, vintage photos, keys, hinges and abandoned furniture. The result is a series of magical and whimsical sculptures. Tall, elegant, ethereal figures clustered together on pedestals in her aerie-like space atop the Labor Temple Studios at 267 South Stone reminded me of haunting black and white photos taken in Alberto Giacometti’s Paris studio during the 1960s. After a couple of glasses of chardonnay, I realized I’d fallen hopelessly in love with the delicate and pensive Moonlight Angel, and that piece asked to go home with me too. A venerable Tucson building, the Labor Temple is home to five artists and is a must-see venue on the studio tour.
At the 7th Avenue Arts District Studios, sculptor Dana Smith‘s work caught my eye. As a paleontologist and science writer I was fascinated by her large scale ceramic work, inspired by fossil ammonites from Morocco and Madagascar, and ancient trilobites. A lively conversation revealed that Dana and I have a long string of mutual friends in the science world, and I accidentally delivered a (hopefully) short lecture on the history of ammonites—an extinct cephalopod in which I have a particular interest.
As usual, I ended the day with my pal Stu Jenks. I was treated to a preview of his gorgeous new fine art photography book, Hoop Dancing: More Journeys Through Nocturnal Photography, Book Two which will be published next week and limited to 300 signed and numbered copies.
So, after consuming two long days, numerous slices of brie, and almost half a tank of gas, that left about 145 artists I didn’t get to visit this year. I wish I could get everywhere and see everything, but the Open Studio Tour would have to last at least two weeks to make such a thing even possible. But what I did see underscored something I already know well: Tucson is blessed with a diverse, friendly and fabulous arts community.
My compliments to the Tucson Pima Arts Council for organizing another successful event, and also to the supporting sponsors. And if you missed the fall tour this year, don’t worry. Next weekend’s outdoor Tucson Museum of Arts Holiday Craft Market is another excellent opportunity to revel in the beaux arts of Tucson. See you there.
Photographs © by Geoffrey Notkin. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission. Artworks pictured are © by the respective artists and reproduced with express permission.