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Brian Richard Goodell looks to add to Tucson's mural culture

During the 2002-2003 television season, Tucson was the backdrop for the show Greetings From Tucson. "Backdrop" may be too strong of a word, since filming took place in Hollywood. But once in a while, you could catch a quick glimpse of something familiar—a desert road, a cactus or a mountain range. The show certainly didn't do Tucson justice.

Longtime Tucsonans complain about how our town is represented by Hollywood. You see a tumbleweed, coyote, lizard or cactus, and that's it. There's little representation of what's really here.

One thing often missing from these representations is our vibrant public art. Drive down a city street, and you will undoubtedly see a colorful mural on a wall. Culture weaves with art, as Mexican, Indian and Anglo influences are presented. A good place to see numerous murals online is at Randy Garsee's blog, tucsonmurals.blogspot.com.

But as of this writing, there's one mural that isn't on Garsee's blog, because it's not a traditional wall painting.

It's also not located at an outdoor location, but instead, it can be found at the Tucson Mall. Created by native Tucsonan Brian Richard Goodell, the mural is a collage of 13,000 photos, measuring 54 feet wide by 12 feet tall. Included are 250 original photos of various mall-related scenes, including store fronts, merchandise and food. It's located on the second floor near Dillard's.

The mall mural isn't Tucson-specific, but Goodell is working on a large-scale piece called the Tucson Collage Project. He aims to collect 2,000 photos from Tucsonans and display the work in a public area.

So far, 150 people have uploaded photos to his Web site, www.artzayak.com/mega. While a few have snuck in from Mexico and Australia, most photos are of Tucson families and locales. There's a photo of two people standing next to the Sidewinders mascot, three guys in front of the Rialto marquee, cactus scenes and a lightning-streaked desert sky.

Since Goodell has yet to find a sponsor and a display space, he is open to various possibilities about what his collage will eventually entail. But he hopes to retain the local angle.

Goodell's creation won't be a bunch of photos arranged together haphazardly. His collages are made of many photos, with a main photo that is overlaid on top; that is what you see first. It's a bit of an optical illusion.

"From a distance of 10 to 20 feet away, you see a photo. When you get a few inches away, you see that the main photo is made up of hundreds of smaller photos," he explains.

Goodell's work started in November while he was looking for a birthday present for his wife. "I wanted to get her something interesting. I had seen collages of Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley, and I wondered how they were made. I searched on the Web and found (software) that would do what I wanted."

Goodell took 2,200 different family photos measuring three-quarters of an inch wide and then picked a main image of him and his wife. Stand back from the poster, and you see two smiling faces. Stand close, and you see the individual photos. (See our Web site or artzayak.com for the art.)

Goodell says his wife's reaction was "shock and amazement for a whole hour. She wasn't expecting something like that. It was fun finding each photo and (recalling) the memories of each photo."

The reaction from his wife interested him enough to start a collage service for others. "People have a gazillion photos in photo books. Time goes by, and you don't look at them. It's an artistic way of taking 50, 100 or hundreds of individual memories that you cherish and being able to walk by them on a daily or weekly basis. It's like a photo album in a snapshot."

Goodell says his interest is to bring people together with his collages. He seeks the personal touch. "If people can bring family or hobbies into it, they'd appreciate it."

He also appreciates that large murals and collages can add to the community. "Instead of just being a collage of something, to me, it's more interesting if it's made from people who live in that area—for them to know it, see it and talk about it."

Goodell hopes the main overlay photo of his Tucson Collage Project will be a wrap of the mountains and downtown Tucson. From the distance, the large mural would display our town's physical surroundings. But up close, viewers could see thousands of smiling Tucsonan faces. That would make Goodell's creation yet another example of local, vibrant art.

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