Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Tucsonan’s portraits defy the conventional

Citizen Staff Writer
Visual Arts



Tucson-based artist Chris Rush has a very simple philosophy when creating art: Make a picture, hang it on a wall and it will continue to change long after the artist has died.

Rush’s works, the painter says, have been hailed as “unconventional portraiture” by art aficionados; this likely is due to his unique approach to capturing the beauty and essence of his subjects. Highly influenced by painters of the 16th-century Mannerist movement, in which depictions of humans tended to be exaggerated, Rush incorporates regal paraphernalia such as cloaks, armor, wigs, mirrors and other accessories to accentuate the presence of the person.

His latest exhibit, “Translations,” which also features works by Bailey Doogan and Alice Leora Briggs, runs at the Etherton Gallery downtown (135 S. Sixth Ave.) through April 11. Rush’s contributions to the show blend the anomalies and disabilities of his subjects with the Mannerist style to produce breathtaking depictions of people who tend to survive just under the radar.

One of Rush’s standout paintings from the exhibit is “Yellow Sunglasses,” which shows a shirtless, albino boy posed with his hands behind his head, wearing red shorts and electric-yellow sunglasses.

Rush was doing a residency with the Wurlitzer Foundation in 2007 in Taos, N.M., when he first saw the boy in the town square. Noticing the beauty in this white-haired child with translucent skin, Rush quickly ran after the 8-year-old, Payton, who was with his family. Rush recalls he declared to the parents that he “must paint their son’s portrait.”

Over the course of two months, Rush worked with Payton, drawing multiple portraits then letting his subject decide which one would finally show.

“Deep down inside, he wanted to be Marilyn Monroe. He wanted to be a movie star and so he posed to be glamorous,” Rush says.

Rush focuses on subjects with disabilities for the Etherton show without zeroing in on those specific challenges.

“A dowager socialite who has five or six face-lifts starts to get pretty weird. Some kid in a wheelchair compared to her black soul is completely angelic,” Rush says. “It’s hard to say exactly who has the disability.”

Rush’s work can also be seen in a city-commissioned installation on 15th Street near Campbell Avenue. The Arroyo Chico public art portrait series, of porcelain enamel, depicts 17 people who live in the area near the mural.

Yet another free option for seeing Rush’s pieces is at the Tucson International Airport’s Upper Link Gallery, where “Hall of Portraits” displays 100 life-size portraits incorporating found objects, spin art and crayons.

“At this point, I really mix my portraits up between people who are very beautiful, very eccentric and even a little shocking,” he says. “When you mix them together, the categories get blurred between all different types of people.”

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service