A dozen years ago, a painting teacher had some advice for C.J. Shane.
”Go to Tucson,” he said, “because the light is so good.”
And so Shane did, 11 years ago. “He was right about the light,” she says. “The Sonoran Desert is such a beautiful place.”
The transplanted artist has lived and studied in many locales—including Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina and Maine. She used to draw the world as it is, but influenced by her adopted home, she’s moved into painterly abstraction.
”My paintings are recognizable as landscape, but pretty abstract,” she says. “I try to convey a view and a sense of place.” Mostly, she says, they convey the “feeling of what it’s like to live in the Sonoran Desert.”
”Rain Begins Here” pictures a big sky in pale blues, with soft-edged not-quite clouds in white and pink, and a narrow band of rust-colored earth below. “Before Dawn” is pure sky. The painting is nothing but alternating swathes of yellow and pink.
Not only are her oils on canvas richly colored; their paints are thick and highly textured.
Shane also makes one-of-a-kind artist’s books that combine her own writing (she’s a former journalist) with her artwork. One of her books was exhibited at the UA Poetry Center earlier this year and subsequently won a purchase award; it’s now in the center’s collection. Locally, she’s also shown her work at Tohono Chul Park, Conrad Wilde Gallery, Raices Taller and Central Arts.
This Saturday and Sunday, during the Tucson Pima Arts Council’s Open Studio Tour, art-lovers can see her art at her own home in central Tucson, at 4550 E. Lester St. (www.cjshane.com).
Shane just bought the place, and she’s finding it’s just about perfect for a plein air arts exhibition.
”I have a big front porch, and I’m going to put a tent in the yard,” she says. Some work will be out on the porch; the biggest paintings will be in the tent. She’ll share the space with friend Jane Kroesen, a ceramicist, who will display pottery.
Shane and Kroesen will be just two of some 222 artists showing work out of houses and studios all over Tucson during the free, self-guided tour. The media in which these artists work is as varied as the lights and moods of that legendary Tucson sky. Besides books, pots and paintings, they make sculptures, photographs, fiber work, metal, glass, jewelry and various combinations thereof. Some promise demos.
Way out east near Pantano and Golf Links roads, Jason E. Butler, who describes his medium as “sculpture with graffiti,” will heat and shape steel. He’ll have the forge going from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday only, at 7941 E. Nicaragua Drive (396-0645).
Way up in the northwest, Kaitlin Mara Meadows demonstrates papermaking at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, and bookmaking at 2 p.m., Sunday. Meadows’ studio is at 13141 W. Camino de Conejo, west of Picture Rocks (622-6161).
In the Arts Warehouse District in Central Tucson, the artist members of Raices Taller will lead a hands-on workshop for all ages. Participants can create a finished work of art in paint or collage, and take it home. The free workshop is 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday only, at the gallery at 218 E. Sixth St. (881-5335). For additional demonstrations, check TPAC’s website.
Group studios offer the highest ratio of art per miles driven (or bicycled), and downtown and near-downtown have the highest density of group studios. The Ninth Street Studios at 650 E. Ninth St. (240-7461; 622-6104), near Tucson High Magnet School, house numerous artists, including painters Betina Fink, Maria D. Arvayo, Elizabeth Criger and Mary Theresa Dietz. Painter Cynthia Miller and poet and Chax Press publisher Charles Alexander, formerly in the Ninth Street Studios, are now at 411 N. Seventh Ave., Suite 103, near Seventh Street (620-1626).
Other downtown multi-artist studios are the Labor Temple, 267 S. Stone Ave., and the Splinter Brothers and Sisters Warehouse, 901 N. 13th Ave.
Some of the group stops are only temporary locations, with artists setting up shop together just for the studio tour. The women’s collective Maiden Arizona is creating an outdoor gallery for the weekend at the home of one of its members, Chris Bishop, at 1620 N. Monroe Crescent (624-1976), west of Silverbell Road, between Ironwood Hill Drive and Speedway Boulevard.
”I have a little tiny house with a beautiful backyard,” Bishop says. She and her art friends will set up tables in the garden for their work, and may do some demos. Even the house is an attraction on the tour. “I don’t want anything mass-produced in the house. It’s full of a lot of colors, a lot of art.”
Most of the eight members used to belong to Central Arts Collective, but dropped out for one reason or another.
”We started to have ‘play dates’ at my house,” says Bishop, who makes paintings, photo mosaics and jewelry. “We were doing workshops, sharing knowledge about mosaics, metal, tile collage and so on. A year ago, we decided to try the Open Studio. We had such a good time, we did it again. This is our third time.
”We’ve had phenomenal luck. Last time, we had 80 to 90 visitors, and everyone sold something.”
The Maiden Arizona artists are a varied lot. Tile artist Bonnie MacQuarrie has done public art in Oro Valley.
”She doesn’t just make tile pieces,” Baker says. “She makes her own tiles.”
Jacqueline Bland works in fiber, Diane C. Taylor in glass, and Leslie Sinclair in watercolors. Ilona Halderman makes paintings, sculptures and assemblages; Patricia Paul creates jewelry. Joanne Pritzen and Ilona Halderman make mixed-media assemblages.
Maiden Arizona will raffle off a small mirrored mosaic tile donated by MacQuarrie, and like most of the other stops on the tour, this one will offer free refreshments.
Bishop is still pondering what to bake, but it will definitely be either “homemade cookies or homemade brownies.”
Some weekend arts events are designed for the Open Studio Tour crowd
With so many art-lookers out and about for the Open Studio Tour, some arts folks have organized additional events to attract them.
The new Arches Gallery, right next door to Solar Culture, opens a retrospective of the work of the late Fern Barber, who died recently at the age of 88. Organized by Steven Eye of Solar Culture, the exhibition will have 40 to 50 of her works, dating from her teen years up until the last years of her life. Her husband, Robert Barber, is selecting the images.
"Fern and Robert were married for 63 years, and spent much of their free time creating art," Eye e-mails.
The free opening reception is 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13, right after the studio tour. The show runs just one week, through Saturday, Nov. 20. Arches Gallery is at 35 E. Toole Ave.; 884-0874.
WAMO (the Warehouse Arts Management Organization) is hosting a reception to update locals on plans for three historic warehouses downtown: Steinfeld, Toole Shed and Citizens.
All three buildings have been important local engines for art, housing artists' studios and other enterprises. Government officials, developers, planners and artists involved in the projects will be on hand. Art by warehouse artists will also be on display from 5 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13, at The Market Inn, 403 N. Sixth Ave.; 261-9219.