Citizen Staff Writer
Stories by POLLY HIGGINS
Leave it to the artists to revitalize downtown. Even as construction confusion continues and the summer heat encourages vacations, the concentration of creative types in the city core remains inspired.
Thursday through Sunday sees the debut of four diverse art events: Artists embrace PowerPoint with Ignite Tucson, create a one-night-only exhibition called Air Traffic: Control, showcase an array of fashion designs in Thunder and Lightning and present people as works of art during Night of the Living Art.
(A fifth event, Sound of Paint, is ongoing through Saturday. For a story on this melding of music and art, go to tucsoncitizen.com/ calendar.)
The artists are incredibly varied, with the events collectively offering a sampler platter of the hundreds of painters, photographers, sculptors, et al who call Tucson home.
Ignite Tucson turns PowerPoint presentation into art
It’s hard to think of something less artistic than a PowerPoint presentation. That’s why Ignite Tucson, with more than 15 local artists giving 5-minute talks aided by PowerPoint, is so intriguing.
Organizer David Aguirre, executive director of Dinnerware Artspace, says he first saw Ignite Portland online – Portland has now held three Ignites – and wanted to try the concept in Tucson. The experiment is Thursday at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.
Each artist gets five minutes, with 20 images cycling through at 15 second intervals. But the topics themselves have no parameters.
Graphic designer Julie Ray is using Ignite to explore her relationship with fake food, her love of synthetic sushi, crocheted carrots and all their brethren.
“It started when I was a kid and I loved reading the descriptions of food in books,” Ray says.
She then shotguns through some favorites: the food in Pee Wee’s refrigerator that was always playing, the plastic sushi in Yoshimatsu’s gift area, a Japanese cartoon character named Kogepan who is a sad little piece of burnt bread.
Ray will show images from a variety of sources, including her own photographs of fake food and, yes, at least one image of Kogepan.
Architect Bill Mackey’s exploration of transportation also stems from a personal interest, though he’ll fill his five minutes with images likely to provoke discussions that are more sociopolitical.
Mackey says he will show slides of maps, such as an imagine of downtown overlaid with the boundaries of Tucson Mall.
“You see that downtown isn’t that big,” Mackey says, pointing out that we seem to be more comfortable with the amount of walking we do in a parking lot than strolling Congress Street.
Mackey attended a preview of Ignite Tucson with four presenters at Dinnerware about a month ago and is excited about the fast-paced format.
“You give a lecture and no one asks questions. It’s a little dry, but a five-minute thing . . . I think it probably promotes conversation.”
Tucson’s noisy skies the focus of Air Traffic: Control
When Tomiko Jones moved to Tucson about three years ago, she was surprised by how loud it is here.
After living in Seattle, New York and Toyko, she says, “I expected Tucson to be this quiet town in the West. And it’s noisy.”
The noise she refers to is in our skies, a cacophonic collage generated by the airport, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and police helicopters.
Jones and fellow University of Arizona MFA graduate Chris Dacre have had many conversations about air traffic. So, when the two were presented with the opportunity to collaborate for the first time, “it was pretty easy to choose the topic,” Jones says.
“Air Traffic: Control” can be experienced for just one night, four hours on Friday, at the new Rocket Gallery, 270 E. Congress St.
Dacre had approached David Aguirre, who runs Dinnerware Artspace and Rocket Gallery, looking for a place to stay for a couple of weeks, Aguirre recalls.
“I said you can stay at Rocket Gallery but you have to hold an exhibit,” he says.
Late last week, Dacre was busy working on a helicopter made of mostly found objects – the fan on the tail was found in a dumpster – hanging in the narrow space.
Sitting on a paint can in the sparse gallery, Jones points to the door, noting that a dark tunnel will guide visitors inside, where they will be confronted by the sounds that many of us barely notice after years of conditioning. A mural painted by Dacre fills one long wall. Videos by Jones will be part of the installation as well, and a projector will be mounted inside the helicopter.
Very much on Jones’ mind are the social and political connections between the noisy skies and the humans below.
“Being that we are so close to an Air Force, I am in constant reminder about the U.S. military presence both here and abroad,” she writes in an e-mail. Police helicopters bring to mind crime and economic disparity for her.
Though the exhibit may be visible as a window display for a while, Jones says she likes the notion that it won’t last.
“It’s so ephemeral. This painting will be painted over, the helicopter will go in the trash. There’s nothing to sell, which, as an artist, is pretty liberating,” she says. “Maybe people get a little tired of the commercial application of art.”
Jones and Dacre will travel to Seattle next to create separate, two-month window displays in vacant buildings in Seattle, and then Jones heads to France for a four-month residency.
Designers to make noise, flash their clothes in Thunder and Lightning
Dinnerware Artspace has a 45-foot runway in it. This is not the norm.
“I kept running into these designers here and asking them, ‘Where do you show? What are your opportunities?’ ” Dinnerware executive director David Aguirre says. He also asked himself a question: “Why aren’t we providing a platform for designers?”
On Saturday, the gallery, 264 E. Congress St., is doing just that with Thunder and Lightning. Proceeds benefit Dinnerware.
About 17 designers are lined up to exhibit, and they offer the gamut from wearable pieces to creations more for display and intellectual dissection.
Artist Eleonor Leon falls into the latter category. One of her halter tops is fashioned of linked eyelash curlers, in part a reaction to her using them for years without really questioning the routine or her relationship with the technology.
“A lot of my work has to do with femininity, how assumptions are made based on the way you look,” Leon says.
Her current collection, she says, uses keyboard keys. Leon notes that the designs are fed by her long history of secretarial work. Keyboard letters make sense, she says, because most of us touch them for hours a day.
On the wearable end of the spectrum is Danell Lynn, though the one-of-a-kind fashions she creates as dl-couture are certainly within the realm of art.
In the fashion business for about six years, Lynn says that she will exhibit several works including three custom-created gowns.
“I can spend a month on a dress,” she says, adding that this is her first Tucson show.
Lynn uses fabrics found around the world, helped along by the fact that she travels consistently to meet clients.
The show will feature some green fashions, Aguirre says, and a couple displays will incorporate performance poetry.
Additional participants include Preen owners Erin Bradley and Emilie Marchand (showing hats), sculptor-inventor Mat Bevel and politically minded designer Oscar Jimenez.
M.S. drives the Night of the Living Art
When Jessica Vining was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March, she didn’t dwell on the negative impact the disease would certainly have on her life.
And, as the 30-year-old notes, “I am someone who likes to take action.”
Taking action for the local hair stylist and photographer meant conceiving a way to help others with the disease while she helped herself. She formed aHEAD, a group geared toward 20- and 30-year-olds who have M.S. Any age is welcome, Vining says, with the age range really just an indication that the mindset of aHEAD will be different.
Vining has found some group meetings discussing disease too depressing. So aHEAD will focus on the positive, with discussions of how to live well with the disease through proper nutrition, exercise, etc.
Night of the Living Art is her first fundraiser for the group, and she hopes to continue them annually. Proceeds will be split between aHEAD and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The Sunday event begins at 5 p.m. with a silent art auction. Twenty-some works have been donated by local artists.
Then, at 6, comes the fun twist: the living art. Five models will be dressed and coiffed by Vining and two co-stylists from A Head of Style salon. Vining plans to decorate two models with body paint, with local artist Eliane Paulino providing an outfit of plastic bottles for one.
Vining will host, and food and beverages will be available.
IF YOU GO
What: Ignite Tucson
When: 6:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. presentations, Thursday
Where: The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.
Price: $5 donation
What: Air Traffic: Control
When: 6-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Rocket Gallery, 270 E. Congress St.
What: Thunder and Lightning fashion benefit
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Price: $10 donation
Where: Dinnerware Artspace, 264 E. Congress St.
What: Night of the Living Art
When: 5-9 p.m. Sunday
Where: Blum & Amesquita, 445 N. Third Ave.