Landscape painter Betina Fink loves taking her students to paint in the canyons and valleys and riversheds of southern Arizona.
One of her favorite locations is free-flowing Cienega Creek, and another is Empire Ranch. Lately, though, she's gone again and again to the Santa Rita Mountains to paint.
"It's so incredibly beautiful there," she says. "I've gone many times with my paints and pastels. Right now"—post-monsoon—"it's so green."
That beauty, of course, is threatened by the proposed Rosemont Mine. Augusta Resources, a Canadian company, is waging an aggressive battle to dig up thousands of acres of pristine land just west of state Route 83, and convert it into a massive open-pit copper mine. A U.S. Forest Service report noted that the mine "would result in 5,401 acres of direct, or long-term or permanent impacts and 146,153 acres of indirect impacts to biological resources." Trees, cacti and other vegetation would be bladed. Wildlife habitat that's home to endangered and threatened species—including the jaguar and the Southwestern willow flycatcher—would be destroyed. Quantities of the region's fragile water supply would be diverted to mine operations.
Fink's oil painting "Santa Ritas" captures the beauty of land that would vanish. Part of The Drawing Studio's Seeing the Santa Ritas, a multigenre, multi-artist show opening during The Big Picture, a multigallery show on Saturday, Oct. 5, "Santa Ritas" is a view of the sunlit land from the east.
The mountain peaks that the artist has painted pink and yellow will survive if the mine is carved out of the earth, she notes, but the middle ground seen in the painting "will be gone," she says. "It will be destroyed. The mine will be dug right there."
The painter and a host of other artists, including seven poets, will do a free presentation Saturday at the gallery, starting at 7 p.m. Fink will talk about the art exhibition, which she curated, and photographers Josh Schacter and Brian Forbes Powell will describe Lens on the Land—Rosemont: What's at Stake, a project documenting the plants and animals imperiled by the proposed mine.
Kimi Eisele, choreographer, dancer and co-director of NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre, will screen the modern dance company's new video, Rosemont Ours. Directed by artist Ben Johnson to music by Vicki Brown, the movie was filmed at the potential mine site. In the movie, NEW ART dancers, moving barefoot among the trees and rocks, mimic the movement of the Santa Ritas' animal inhabitants: the mule deer, desert tortoise, yellow-billed cuckoo and Southwestern willow flycatcher. (For a preview, click on rosemontours.com.)
"We walked away with enormous reverence for the place and the creatures that live there," says Eisele. "Our aim was to help people see and feel all of that life, where it belongs."
And to try to preserve the Santa Rita ecosystem, including its plants, animals, water and historic and cultural sites.
"I'm hoping it's not too late," Fink adds. "I'm hoping we can save it."
The Drawing Studio, 33 S. Sixth Ave., 620-0947, thedrawingstudio.org, is staging a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. The free presentation begins at 7 p.m.
Saturday night's Big Picture kicks off the fall art season for the Central Tucson Gallery Association. Everything's free, but times vary, so check each gallery listed below. In addition to The Drawing Studio, some dozen galleries open their doors in a gala evening of food and libation, and a wide array of art—from a real-life painted human skull at Sacred Machine to a "sculptural light installation" at Conrad Wilde Gallery's new space.
The peripatetic Wilde, a contemporary gallery and former mainstay of the art-rich neighborhood at Sixth and Sixth, has moved west. Its new digs are in the Historic Steinfeld Warehouse, the legendary arts spawning ground of the 1990s and early 2000s. Closed for some years, it's newly renovated. Wilde reopens with the light exhibition, Andrew Kjera: Under Construction. 101 W. Sixth St., southeast entrance, 622-8997; conradwilde.com. 6 to 9 p.m.
Sixth and Sixth
Back at Sixth and Sixth, the gallery scene is still thriving. At Contreras Gallery, painter Gary Aagaard skewers political and religious hypocrisy, in oils, watercolors and giclée prints in Levitations for Lemmings. 110 E. Sixth St., 398-6557; contrerashousefineart.com. 6 to 9 p.m.
Focus: Five Women opened last week, but at the Saturday night reception Davis Dominguez Gallery fetes the artists: bronze sculptor Julia Andres, painter Moira Marti Geoffrion, fiber artist Claire Campbell Park, multimedia artist Barbara Penn and lithographer Kathryn Polk. 154 E. Sixth St., 629-9759; davisdominguez.com. 6 to 8 p.m.
Santa Theresa Tile Works celebrates the spooky season with new Day of the Dead ornaments by staff artist Donna Stoner. Stoner has adorned her skulls with brightly colored flowers, snakes and crosses. 440 N. Sixth Ave.; 623-8640; santatheresatileworks.com. 6 to 8 p.m.
The party animals at Raices Taller 222 had a fiesta last month to open their current works-on-paper exhibition, de Papel (Made of Paper) but they're celebrating again. And why not? Visitors can count the ways the 48 artists used paper, in drawings, paintings, prints, photos and sculpture. 218 E. Sixth St.; 881-5335; raicestaller222.org. 6 to 9 p.m.
George Penaloza, who wowed crowds at the Tucson Museum of Art Biennial this year with his wild Wizard of Oz fantasy in ceramic, has more über-imaginative works in Three Artists, at Obsidian Gallery in the Historic Train Depot. The show's two other artists are also inspired narrative ceramicists. Merry ArtToones uses the comic to dissect the serious, and Magdalene Gluszek mixes animal and human elements. 410 N. Toole Avenue, No. 120, 577-3598; obsidian-gallery.com. 6 to 9 p.m.
Daniel Martin Diaz is responsible for the painted skull at his Sacred Machine Museum. No surprises there—Diaz has built a career reimagining religious and folkloric figures. He's one of 22 artists in Santa Muerte Music & Arts Festival, which exhibits imaginings of Holy Death, the outlaw skeletal saint of the borderlands. Curator Paula Catherine Diaz included her own painted skulls, which overlay a 19th-century daguerreotype. 245 E. Congress St., 777-7403; sacredmachine.com. 4 to 9 p.m.
In the urban hardscape downtown, ATLAS fine art services provides counterpoint images of the landscape. The Exotic Sublime: Explorations of the Desert Southwest concentrates on abstract desert forms, exhibiting one work by each of eight artists: painters David Andres and Rick Demont; photographers Rosanna Salonia, Patricia Katchur and Keith Marroquin; sculptor Greg Corman; mixed-media artist Clark Trujillo; and Andrew Polk, who contributes a drawing. 41 S. Sixth Ave., 622-2139; atlasfineartservices.com. 6 to 9 p.m.
Tom Philabaum and two Wisconsin pals, Wes and Wesley Hunting, show off their brand-new invention: wire-wrapped hot glass. Some works in Wired, opening Saturday at Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio, are fresh from the furnace. The trio did studio demos this week (last opportunity to watch is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3), and they'll put the best of the lot in the show. 711 S. Sixth Ave., 884-7404; philibaumglass.com. 5 to 8 p.m.
At the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at Pima Community College West, the fine Faculty Exhibit shows the art of 15 full-time profs laboring at Pima's many campuses. Prize-winning teacher and painter Mariana Carreras, head of art at the downtown campus, is the featured artist. 2202 W. Anklam Road, 206-6942; pima.edu/community/the-arts. 6 to 9 p.m.