Monday, September 28, 2009

My Income Stream (Trickle), Saturdays on the Reservation

Every Saturday I make the trip from home (Oracle) to Sells, on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, where I teach Basic Design at the Tohono O'odham Community College.
It's a bit of a long drive. 2 1/4 hours, to be exact. Each way.

In the photo above, I'm completing the first 1/2 hour of the drive, as I approach Tucson. The mountains are the Catalina's. They're quite spectacular, if you know what you're doing, and if you aren't shooting while driving.

Freeway driving through Tucson. I got a few shots of just sky. A few of just pavement. And then, well, sort of a photo of some of the big buildings in Tucson. I've now been driving for about an hour. It's 8:15 am on Saturday, not much traffic, so it doesn't matter too much that I'm weaving all over the road to get this shot.

Under an overpass.

And onto the long road toward the reservation.

Approaching the Border Patrol checkpoint.

Taking my life in my hands photographing the Border Patrol as I pass by. (They only check you going the other direction).

Almost through Border Patrol checkpoint.

On the reservation now. About another 45 minutes to go.

Arrival in Sells. You have to watch out for animals on the road. I almost always see at least a few horses and cows wandering about town.

The slow approach is the best approach.

Entering campus.

The studio. Actually, it's a science lab, but we make do. At least there are sinks. I meant to take a photo of my students. But I got busy and completely forgot. They say hi! They are a wonderful group of 12 students. They work hard and are eager to learn. Although nearly all of them do a variety of arts and crafts, only one has taken any formal art classes. A delight to teach.

There's always something posted on this white board. In English and in Tohono O'ohdam. It's always interesting to see what the phrases are. I especially like "watch out for the rattlesnake" and "pass the salt". Two essentials in life.

Three and 1/2 hours later (that's how long class is), I'm back on the road, going in reverse. Approaching the Border Patrol checkpoint, I snapped a quick shot, but didn't dare take a photo of the officer as he stopped to check me out, making sure I'm a US citizen, not carrying any contraband in my Mini Cooper. I was hungry and didn't want to take a chance on being thrown in jail.

Not far from the reservation, I stop at a gas station to get my lunch. Yes, very nutritious. I try not to eat all the Cheetos, but it's hard to resist, after all, I have another 2 hours to drive before I get back home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Surprising Encounter in a Former Ghost Town

Our wonderful older son (as opposed to our wonderful younger son) gave Jim a birthday gift nearly a year ago that we were finally able to use this week. The gift was two nights at the Shady Dell Trailer Court in Bisbee, Arizona (for both of us. Thanks, Jere, I'd have been sad to have been left out!). The Shady Dell has been written up in Sunset Magazine, among others. A totally unique experience, you arrive at Shady Dell to a group of vintage trailers, arranged in a semi-circle, shaded by trees. 50's and 60's music and decor greet the visitor. Our trailer had a living area, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom.

I don't have a single picture of our 3 day vacation. We agreed not to take cameras. The idea was to relax and not work. At all. Relaxing is actually hard work when you aren't used to it. And being artists in an art town, naturally, time is spent in galleries looking at, yes, art. Which is work. When what you love and what you do are one and the same, it's truly hard to separate work from play. Mostly.

The title of this blog post is A Surprising Encounter in a Former Ghost Town. As you might guess, there is a reason for this title. Bisbee was a copper mining town. When the mines closed, the town languished. I'm not sure how close it ever became to being a true ghost town. At some point, artists began to make their homes here. Although Bisbee is in Southern Arizona, it is a mile high. The elevation makes for a mild climate. The homes are built on very steep hillsides, so steep that you can reach some only by climbing long flights of stairs. To say that Bisbee is in the middle of nowhere wouldn't be exaggerating.

On to the Surprising Encounter. We wandered about town. On a side street, we stopped to admire a nearly vertical garden. The rock terracing was amazing. The plantings provided a riot of color and texture interwoven up the hillside. While we were staring, a guy appearing to be in his late 60's, early 70's, approached us. It turns out that the garden we were admiring was his. He offered to take us up the nearly vertical stairs for a closer look. We ended up with a tour of a number of hidden gardens tucked in front of, beside and behind the homes on the hillside. After climbing what seemed like hundreds of stairs and landing back on the street, our host invited us to visit his studio.

What work. What a studio. Don't I wish I had my camera! Peter owns the entire Old Philadelphia Hotel. The ground level (former store fronts) are all his studio. I have no idea how many square feet we're talking about here, but it's a lot. He treated us to a view of his work, starting in the early 60's and moving forward in time.

He lived and worked in New York in the 60's and early 70's. Not only was he a New York artist, he was (and is) famous! His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the National Gallery in Australia, to name just a few. He didn't tell us any of this, except that he had worked in New York. In fact, to say he was unassuming would be an understatement.

After spending quite a bit of time in his studio, looking at the work and talking, we left to meet an old friend for lunch. Bob Wick, our friend, is an accomplished sculptor (that's a whole other story!) He confirmed that Peter is indeed well known. Bob mentioned that Peter had at one time been married to a famous dancer.

This was all exciting indeed. The minute we got back home, I googled Peter Young. He was married to a famous dancer. Twyla Tharp. Now that's famous! He's been written up in Art in America and Art Forum as recently as 2007. He had a solo show in New York city just a year ago. He's been reviewed in the New York Times. He's had a fascinating life. Wow.

If you're curious, here is an article about Peter Young. If you're really intrigued, there are lots more articles available. Just google him.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Of Friends and the Homeless

I was up until past midnight the evening before I needed to bring my work to Phoenix to be installed at the Burton Barr Central Library gallery. I was finishing this painting. It's called Looking West, and is part of my "Nooks & Crannies" series. I ended up completing 20 new paintings for this show. It took a bit over a year.

While installing the show last week, people kept drifting in from the library. At the time I was pretty absorbed in getting the work hung, but I did end up having conversations with some of the people who were curious about what I was up to.

While we were waiting for the library to open so that we could haul the paintings in, it was clear that the sizable crowd waiting with us outside was comprised mainly of homeless people waiting to get in out of the heat.

One of the things I was hoping for in doing this show was to have an appreciative audience. I was especially hoping that some people who are familiar with the Phoenix Art Museum would come by and recognize that the spaces my paintings are based on are from the Museum. What I didn't think about were the homeless people who would also be drifting through the gallery. To be honest, they didn't cross my mind.

One guy in particular stick in my mind. He came into the gallery and spent a long time looking at my paintings while they were being hung. Then he engaged me in conversation. It turns out that he had gone to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and is (was, had been?) a graphic designer. He was excited about my work. He said he was relieved to see someone in the world who saw things in a similar way to his way of viewing the world. He said some really perceptive things about several of the paintings. Then he showed me a few photos he'd taken on his phone camera of a few of his own nooks and crannies. He apologized for their quality, saying that he'd had to hock his camera and didn't have the money to retrieve it. I wish I could have helped him out.

The opening came. It was Phoenix First Friday. I anticipated a sizeable crowd. Perhaps because it was Labor Day weekend, the big crowd just didn't materialize.

I did, however, have a steady stream of friends who came by. I was so amazed and touched that they would take the time to see my work and to see me. It was nice to have a chance to spend some time talking to friends I hadn't seen in awhile.

So, the work is up. The first reception has happened. Another First Friday to go (October 2). Meanwhile, I hope that some of the people who use the library will come through the gallery. Perhaps my work will resonate with a few more visitors.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Show is Up, Now What???

I've been working on a series, Nooks & Crannies, for a year. I applied to exhibit at the @Central Gallery at Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix last December and was offered a solo show in February (or sometime after the new year). I've been focused on this show for many months, with a goal of completing between 18-22 new paintings. That's a lot for me, because I'm a slow worker, and a painting, no matter what the size, usually takes a month or more for me to complete.

Above is a view of the entrance to the library, taken by my husband, James Cowlin. I'm lucky to be married to him for so many reasons, one of which is that since he's a professional photographer, I get to be the beneficiary of his talent when I need good pictures. He also puts up with me when I'm cranky, which I am especially when I'm stressed out. Like right now.

This photograph is so beautiful, I'm tempted to take a stab at making a painting from it! It's another view of the entrance to the library. By the way, Burton Barr Central Library is one of my very favorite places in Phoenix. It's worth a visit to enjoy the architecture, both outside and inside. There's always a good show in the gallery, thanks to Prudence Crosswhite, who's the curator of @Central Gallery. There are a series of cases displaying fine art books on first floor behind the stairway. There's a beautiful reflecting pond. The 5th floor offers fantastic views of the city and is the largest reading room in the country. Not to mention the great collection of books.

Here's a shot looking into the gallery.

Here's Prudence straightening up a painting.

A shot looking out into the lobby area of the library from the gallery.


One of the walls, with my work. The little painting on the left is hung high up to make room for my artist statement. Thank you to Alyson Stanfield and her book I'd Rather Be in the Studio. Writing an artist statement is not so much fun. It takes a lot of thinking, writing and rewriting. It's never really finished. I feel like I took a pretty good stab at the newest version for this show.

Another wall.

Another wall.

Last wall.

So, it's up. There are 2 receptions, coinciding with 2 First Fridays. One is September 4, this Friday. The other is October 2. I'll be at both.

After driving to Phoenix and back (2 hrs each way) yesterday with Jim to deliver and install the work, I did not get up early. I almost didn't get up at all. I guess you could say I had something of a letdown. I won't even get into my thinking about all that work, and was it worth it and who cares, etc. etc.

Anyway, I did roust myself out of bed. And have been busy, busy, busy ever since. There's a lot of mop up to do. For instance, some of my cards have been returned, to I need to update my mailing list. I have new paintings to record in my computer files. I have 5 online galleries to update. Etc.

I'm already anxious to get back into my studio. To do what, I'm not sure. Stay tuned while I figure it out!