Citizen Staff Writer
Covered from head to toe in dry paint, Katherine Cooper, one of the artists participating in the Tucson Artists’ Open Studios Tour on Saturday and Sunday, sits in a fold-out chair in her downtown studio.
She observes the “Drowned City Deer” painting hanging on the wall in front of her, part of a new series featuring deer.
Take the tour and you’ll discover the stories behind such works as well as artists themselves. The tour gives artists who may not have gallery representation a chance to expose their work to the public, says Dirk J. Arnold, Open Studios Tour coordinator and a participating artist.
This year the tour area is smaller than usual, with 33 locations concentrated mostly in the downtown area. Sixty artists are participating and their work ranges from sculptures and paintings to jewelry and prints.
Those who stop by Lucky Street Studios, where Cooper works, will notice her fascination with deer, which she says stems from an accident she witnessed in which a driver on Catalina Highway hit a large buck.
The woman left to call the sheriff’s department and Cooper stayed behind with the injured animal.
“I held it and watched it die with its head in my lap. Deer are like emissaries from a different world,” she says, still lost in the layers of charcoals and acrylics before her. “With this series, the images reflect the different layers of reality.”
“Drowned City Deer” is based loosely on images of Hurricane Katrina and shows the deer’s ephemeral presence in light of human destruction.
“I couldn’t stop watching the news coverage of Katrina,” Cooper says. “So even when I would watch the deer outside my home, I’d be seeing images of the black water and destroyed buildings.”
Cooper often sees deer, bobcats and other wildlife in the Tucson Mountains near her home in the Sweetwater Reserve. The painting represents her love of wildlife and city life, she says.
Another painting, “Tenement Deer,” was inspired by Cooper’s life in New York City after college. The bright colors illuminate the deer against the dark shades of black and gray used to depict the city buildings in the background. That fuzzes up reality and makes one question whether one is looking through nature at the city or the other way around, she says.
“I like the uncertainty, so people can finish the paintings themselves.”
During the tour, Cooper will display her deer series as well as giclée deer prints and smaller animal sketches. Some of her older works and pieces in progress also will be on display.
“They will all be related in imagery or technique,” she says. “I want people to be able to see what kind of artist I am.”
Arnold’s work also is included in the tour. His Endangered Architecture includes restored miniatures of local landmarks such as the Confucian Temple on Sixth Street and the University of Arizona’s Old Main building. He also preserves signs past and present – Magic Carpet Golf, Hotel Congress – in the form of refrigerator magnets.
“My art is about Tucson’s culture,” he says. “If I were wealthy I’d buy the actual buildings and fix them up, but instead I do it in the miniatures.”
Arnold and other artists organized the spring version of the tour for the third time, after budget woes forced the Tucson Pima Arts Council to withdraw sponsorship.
“We’re not too affected by it,” Arnold says. “We’re happy to show off our work.”
IF YOU GO
What: Tucson Artists’ Open Studios Tour
When: noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Where: Maps of participating galleries and studios available at Dinnerware Artspace, 264 E. Congress St., or online at tucsonopenstudios.com
Price: free admission. Artists’ works available for purchase.
Info: 490-6021, tucsonopenstudios.com