B y M a r g a r e t R e g a n
BIGGEST NEW ART Show in Tucson: The 1995 Arizona Biennial, the latest incarnation of the Tucson Museum of Art's every-other-year juried exhibition of artists from around the state. This time around it's as eclectic and as unclassifiable as ever.
Most Hardworking Jurors: Tucson's own Jim Waid, a painter of national repute, David Rubin, the curator of contemporary art at the Phoenix Art Museum, and Lisa Sette, owner of a successful and significant contemporary art gallery in Scottsdale, had to choose from among 1,000 slides submitted by 450 artists. The media they waded through ranged from dead birds and sugar to oil paints and pastels. The jurors picked out just under 100 pieces of art made by some 65 artists.
Most Noticeable Absence: A tie between the state's most famous contemporary artists and the state's cowboy artists. By and large, this seems to be a show for up-and-coming or mid-career contemporary artists. As for the state's cowboy painters, they simply don't enter: This show, as museum director Robert Yassin freely acknowledges, has a reputation for being avant-garde.
Second Largest City in State with Reason to Be Proud Because 36 Artists Living There Were Chosen for Show: Tucson.
Best Official Prizewinners: The jurors selected quite a few outrageous things for the show, but they showed a conservative bent when they decided on the eight Purchase Awards (TMA buys these prizewinners for its permanent collection). There was the surprising choice of "En Vito," an accomplished but old-fashioned Social Realist pastel by Tucson artist Daryl Childs. The piece conjures up the world of the '40s in its crowd scene of men in hats. They also picked a small landscape on wood, the mesmerizing "Exterior (Triptych)" by the talented Tucson artist Joanne Kerrihard. The two photographs that won Purchase Awards, one by Frances Murray, the other by Ann Simmons-Myers, both of Tucson, have unsettling subject matter but otherwise classical black-and-white photographic technique.
Best Unofficial Prizewinners: See below.
Best Outlaw Artist: Paul Stout of Phoenix. Seems he ran afoul of the Arizona Fish and Game Department when the found bird corpse he had put into a piece turned out to have belonged in life to a member of a protected species, according to curator Joanne Stuhr. To avoid a hefty fine, he had to substitute the corpse of a pigeon (no, he didn't kill either bird) for his glass and brass Transubstantiation. It's a weird piece reminiscent of the amusement park--Stout calls his medium "mixed-kinetic"--that has the skeleton of the unloved, unprotected pigeon flapping its bony wings inside a glass cage inlaid with bird seed. The forlorn figure stands atop a primitive moving picture show, which features drawings of birds that seem to be flying.
Best Artist Whose Works Will Have A Future On The Stage: Gregory Sale, a UA grad student whose performance art challenges old-timey gender roles. Sale's "Stickmen, Ashes, Ashes, They All Go Down," a collaboration with Ronald James Winterrowd, will be "activated by performance" sometime in the future, Sale says. It's two giant pairs of Pinocchio shorts, each stuffed with fireplace logs and connected by a huge penile tube. A Sale solo work, "Love Songs, Nothing But Love Songs," moves into a new medium. It consists of a 12-foot square pillow harboring two giant sugar hearts linked by latex tubing.
Best New Art Material: Sugar. See above.
Best Use of the Personal Ads: Keith Gossiaux of Phoenix. Gossiaux put together two haunting pieces about AIDS and gay life, making the personal ads the centerpiece of collages that are ringed by lace tablecloths and articles about HIV infection.
Most Creative Use of a Barbie Doll: Moline of Tucson turned Barbie into a witch in "Malleus Maleficarum," a three-dimensional shrine that gets its name from the Catholic directive that was used to flush out female witches in the bad old days. Barbie, who brings in zillions of dollars to its corporate maker by teaching young girls all about sex objectship and anorexia, cavorts amongst assorted pics of naked models indulging in S&M.
Ugliest Work of Art: See above.
Best Feminist Response to the Barbie Doll Mentality: "Partydress," a constricting dress form made out of chicken wire, and "Attache," a briefcase containing stilleto shoes with pink plastic penises for heels, both by Earlyn Kovara Tomassini of Phoenix.
Most Beautiful Paintings: See Kerrihard, under Best Official Prizewinners. Mary Temple of Tempe, who also has some work up the street in the Dinnerware Biennial Seven State Juried Exhibition, has another lively painting in this one, "Hot House Fossil." David Andrés of Tucson painted a glittery evocation of life underwater in "Nightdive--Discoveries" and Jeff Del Nero of Phoenix has a gorgeously painted passage in "Preparing the Earth."
Most Realistic Vegetable Sculpture: "Alcachofa," a bronze artichoke by Julia Andrés of Tucson, winner of a Purchase Award.
Most Beautiful Constructed Pieces Inspired by the Poetry of Emily Dickinson: "1210: The Sea Said 'Come' to the Brook" and "As Lightly as an Option Gown," mixed-media works by UA professor Barbara Penn, who notes that Dickinson has prompted her "to address society's past and ongoing resistance to the female voice."
Only Artwork Inspired by O.J.: "Celebrity," a mixed-media box, draped in a flag, by Tucsonan Herb Stratford.
Number of Pieces That Need to Be Plugged into Electrical Outlets to Work: Half a dozen, easily.
Best Quote from the Curator: "Excuse me. I still have to plug in a few more pieces. Last time (in 1993) I think there was only one."
The 1995 Arizona Biennial continues through August 20 at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 624-2333.
Cutline: Above "Untitled," 1994, by Pamela Marks. Below: "Alcochofa," by Julia Andrés, one esteemed new work purchased for TMA's permanent collection.
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