The Mat Bevel arts warehouse on Stone went down last week in a blaze of rubble and bricks, but its crazy kinetic sculptures have found temporary refuge in the Tucson Museum of Art.
The museum's upper galleries are shimmering with shiny sculptures shaped from TV sets, bedframes, bicycles, curling curves of wire and even crutches. Visitors are allowed—nay, welcomed—to pull the pieces' electrical switches to set them in motion and ablaze with light.
These mad genius creations are the work of Ned Schaper, aka Mat Bevel, a Tucson artist who's labored in near obscurity for years.
"I've been following his work since I came here in 1995," says TMA's Julie Sasse, who curated the massive show, "Welcome to Beveldom," which runs through Sept. 28. "Of all the people staying in the trenches, staying true to their vision, regardless of the market, Ned keeps making interesting art on target with his vision."
Schaper had hoped to make a Beviled Ark, by piling all his displaced works into one monster sculpture on wheels, and roll it on down to the museum. Didn't happen: some things are impossible even for outsider geniuses. But Schaper will be at the museum at 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 to do one of his legendary performances. Speaking as someone who has seen his daring performances—in which he wrestles, wears and rides art machines—I can say unequivocally that that's the best way to see their kinetics.
And what better way to celebrate the opening of the Tucson arts season, than to watch an artistic original who's undeterred by economic reality—or the demands of a new road—shooting off artistic sparks, literal and otherwise?
Fall 2014 is as packed with art exhibitions, plays, dance, music, readings and movies as it is possible for one desert burg to be. Just to pick one art-dense weekend in mid-October, we've got a mariachi opera about migrants, "Cruzar la Cara de la Luna" at Arizona Opera (Oct. 18 and 19, at Tucson Music Hall) and a new ballet version of "Phantom of the Opera" by Ballet Tucson (Oct. 17 to 19, Stevie Eller Dance Theatre).
We have work by contemporary Indian artists responding to the Indian photos of Edward S. Curtis (Arizona State Museum, Oct. 18 to March 31) and "The Zoo Story" by Edward Albee staged by Speak the Speech Theatre in its new Community Playhouse at 1881 N. Oracle Road (Oct. 10 to 26).
And we have incursions from the world of high-profile political and pop culture: Bill Maher stops at Tucson Music Hall Oct. 5. Jay Leno alights at Centennial Hall Oct. 25 and the irascible Alec Baldwin follows on Nov. 15. A traveling production of Flashdance, God help us, sashays into the same hall Nov. 4 to 9, imported by Broadway in Tucson.
What follows is the merest sketch, as it were, of the rich tapestry of fine arts that will unfurl in town clear through New Year's. There's not enough space here to mention every play and concert and exhibition. Check the arts organizations' websites for their full schedules, and consult the Tucson Weekly each week for the latest listings. For pop, rock, jazz and indie at the Rialto and the Fox and elsewhere, consult the TW music section. Many thanks to Irene Messina, the indefatigable and indispensable TW assistant editor, for gathering much of this material.
Davis Dominguez gives a boost to emerging artists in "Four to Watch," Sept. 18 to Oct. 25. Energetic young painter Jenny Day showed improbable Alaska paintings last year; it will be fun to see what another year in the desert has done to her aesthetic. She's joined by painters Juan Enriquez and Josh Olivera, and Michael Fadel, who—shades of Mat Bevel—makes kinetic sculpture. In the next show, the narrative installation "Pool Project" by Alfred Quiroz, the gallery's "resident socio-historical satirist," plays a raucous counterpoint to serene abstractions by Pamela Marks (painting) and Carrie Seid (wall sculpture). Oct. 30 to Dec. 6.
Australian artist Kate Breakey, long since transplanted to the Arizona desert and best known for her riveting painted photos of dead birds, does something entirely different in every single show. This time it's landscape and still life photos in "Without and Within" at Etherton Gallery, opening at a reception 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; runs through Nov. 1. Breakey shares the space with photog Keith Carter, who conjures the "secrets and folklore" of East Texas, and fellow avian artist Ed Pusante, who paints birds on vintage cigar boxes. The artists lecture at the Center for Creative Photography at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12.
An all-photography show runs at Etherton Nov. 8 through Jan. 3, with new work by Jamey Stillings, who wowed Tucson a few years back with his transcendent photos of the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge. Joining Stillings are David Emitt Adams, Richard Laugharn, and Chris Colville. Reception 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8.
The new Baker + Hesseldenz Gallery in the Warehouse Arts District at Sixth and Sixth introduces its edgy side to Tucson in the delightfully named "New Contemporary: lowbrow popsurrealist group show." Co-proprietor Scott Baker says the 13 exhibitors are "modern masters" from Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Vancouver and beyond. Reception 7 to 10, Oct. 4; runs through Nov. 21.
The UA's Poetry Center also hosts cutting-edge—and heart-rending—visual art from California. Artist and poet Karen Green is the acclaimed author of "Bough Down," a mixed-media book that one reviewer called a "harrowing and beautiful document" of her grief after the 2008 suicide of her husband, writer David Foster Wallace. A noted visual artist in her own right, Green opens her show of new drawings and collage works, "Lie Quietly," in a meet-the-artist reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Sept. 26. Show runs through Dec. 10.
Also on campus, the Center for Creative Photography hosts "Performance," a selection from the collection of Doug Nielsen, UA modern dance professor and art collector extraordinaire. Curated by the Center's brand-new curator, Joshua Chuang, "Performance" displays just the photos in the enormous cache of art Nielsen keeps stashed in his Ice House loft downtown. Noted photogs on view include Jo Ann Callis, who will give a talk at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18, Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin. Tucson's own Judy Miller has a marvelous wax-figured Mona Lisa at the Grand Canyon. Through Jan. 4. Nielsen promises to have his student dancers perform among the photos, at a date to be determined.