Best Art Gallery--TIE
Tucson Museum of Art
140 N. Main Ave.
135 S. Sixth Ave. READERS' AND STAFF PICK: In a surprise race, the reinvigorated Tucson Museum of Art caught up to perennial favorite Etherton Gallery and ended up tying with the gallery for first place. (Our staff stuck with Etherton, voting it alone the Best Art Gallery, although we like the Museum, too.) TMA technically shouldn't even be in the running in this category--a big institution with a long history, a board and some measure of public funding has many advantages over a small private art gallery--but who's quibbling? TMA has been doing a bang-up job lately, balancing contemporary art shows with traditional and historic exhibitions. The past season saw the TMA veering from the disquieting, modernist meditations of painter John Wenger (who had the solo Stonewall show) to the charming New Mexican tin art displayed at Christmas time. And who can forget the smelly snails in Joyan Saunders' room-size installation in the spring? The Saunders show was one in a commendable series of shows by local artists. It's true TMA keeps showing a lot of that cowboy and cowgirl art (we hear the cattle crowd on the board is always feuding with the contemporary art lovers) but director Robert Yassin has come up with an ingenious compromise. The western art is being transferred over to a historic building in the museum block, freeing up more space in the main building for changing exhibitions. Over at Etherton, the season was an entertaining and educational journey through the history of photography, filled out by some knockout painting exhibitions. The opening show celebrated the wandering photographer: We glimpsed the hollow eyes of mountain people in Appalachia and the broken limbs of war victims in Cambodia. At Christmas, we learned how photographers have captured motion, starting with Eadweard Muybridge's early experiments on up to Harold Edgerton's famous exploding drop of milk. Transcendent landscape photographer Christopher Burkett showed us the sacred in the details of nature and mixed media painter Jeffrey Jonczyk celebrated the kooky rhythms of the city. Pinturae fabulosae Bailey Doogan and Holly Roberts finished off the season, Doogan with her riveting paintings of women's bodies and Roberts with her haunting paintings-on-photographs of bodies and beasts and birds.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: WomanKraft, 388 S. Stone Ave.