As we move into our second pandemic autumn, the big news on the cultural calendar is that nearly every arts enterprise is open. Galleries are swinging their doors wide, theaters are pulling up their curtains, and ballerinas are preparing to dance once more.
Some groups went back to business eons ago. The Tucson Museum, for one, re-opened in the summer of 2020 and seems to have done well with timed tickets, limited entry, required masks and social distancing. Others opened up bit by bit. And, this spring, as millions got their shots and Covid waned, arts groups of all sorts cheerfully planned for normal fall seasons.
Now, of course, the nation – and Tucson – are struggling against the Delta variant, which has pushed the death toll to terrifying new heights. If you’re going out to shows, follow the venue’s COVID protocols and if you haven’t yet been vaccinated, consider getting your shot to protect yourself and others.
Here are some tips for safely visiting galleries and museums. Call before you go. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Not all of the venues require masks, but wear yours. You don’t want to spread anything, right?
Most of the arts spaces are not crowded. But if there’s a bottleneck in front of, say, an Olivier Mosset painting, step aside and return to the canvas when the coast is clear.
And keep in mind that the pandemic could easily quash another season of the arts if the variants get even worse. Curators are already considering virtual alternatives in the event of more shutdowns. Virtual art, anyone?
In happy news in the museum world, the UA has reopened two of its excellent museums. The Arizona State Museum and the Center for Creative Photography came out of their long moratoriums in late August, 18 months since the pandemic hit. The University of Arizona Museum of Art will follow suit, opening in late October.
The opening show at the Arizona State Museum dazzles with the hues of the Mexican Saltillo sarape. The brilliant textiles in Wrapped in Color: Legacies of the Mexican Sarape are outright joyful.
Woven in red, orange, black, yellow and white, the sarape shawl “expresses Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican history, traditions and textile techniques.” Curated jointly by museum staff and Zapotec textile artist Porfirio Gutiérrez, the show exhibits historic pieces as well as the work of a new generation of weavers like Gutiérrez. He created six new serapes for the show. Through July 2022. statemuseum.arizona.edu
Also on view is Pahko’ora/Pahko’ola: Mayo and Yaqui Masks from the James S. Griffith Collection. The show began before the pandemic and has been extended so fans can still these marvelous Indigenous masks. While the U.S. rages over wearing fabric on the face, visitors will see how other cultures revere the mask and its power. And don’t miss the collection’s Indigenous clay pots and woven baskets from the U.S. southwest and northwest Mexico. Statemuseum.arizona.edu
The Center for Creative Photography, a jewel in the campus crown, is a treasure trove of some 90,000 photographs. Now, after a long wait, the re-opening show examines Journalism 20/20: A Think Tank for an Unimaginable Present. The exhibition occupies the CCP’s brand new Alice Chaiten Baker Interdisciplinary Gallery, a space that housed the photography library years ago. The new show is up through January 2022.
An open house on Thurs., Sept. 23, with extended hours from noon to 7 p.m., promises “pop-up installations, art making, food, music and more.” ccp.arizona.edu
The University of Arizona Museum of Art will be closed for another two months, while a construction project in the School of Art finishes up. But when is does open on Oct. 24, it will host an enticing exhibition on the intersection of food and art. Borrowed entirely from the private collection of Jorden D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, the show features 37 artists and 109 artworks from the 20th century to the present day. Look for Andy Warhol’s big yellow banana, native artist Neal Ambrose-Smiths’ critiques of Monsanto’s seed ownership and the gorgeous colors of Katherine Ace’s combos of lush fabric and food.
A community opening on Oct. 24 will feature poetry, music and—of course—food. Through March 22. Lectures will be held throughout the fall. Artmuseum.arizona.edu
The Tucson Museum of Art’s big fall show, Olivier Mosset, runs Oct. 14 to Feb. 27. Mosset, Swiss-born and Tucson-based, is known internationally for his conceptual abstractions and large-scale shaped paintings. A second major exhibition, Patrick Martinez: Look What You Created, runs Nov. 4 to April 4. An LA artist, born in 1980, Martinez “uses mixed media works, neon signs and cake paintings to explore discrimination and loss in communities of color.”
You can still catch 4x4, the great summer show that highlights four artists in four different cultural communities in Tucson. Don’t miss Willie Bonner’s color-drenched paintings that honor “what it means to be Black in America.” Through Sept. 26. tucsonmuseumofart.org
Over at Moca-Tucson, the city’s longtime contemporary museum, Olivier Mosset has another show, The Things We Keep. The painter displays works from his art archive along with his books and ephemera. But hurry. The show ends soon, on Sept. 5.
Moca’s Pia Camil: Three Works will also shut down soon, on Sept. 19. The Mexican artist has hung discarded T-shirts from the ceiling of the Great Hall to highlight the problems of out-of-control consumerism. Visitors are invited to donate their own worn clothes and get the chance to see them blowing in the breeze outside.
Mujeres Nourishing Fronterizx Bodies: Resistance in the Time of COVID-19 opens Sept. 18 in Moca’s small East Gallery and runs through January 30. Two women’s collectives, one in the U.S. and the other in Agua Prieta, Sonora, joined forces to “interrogate” the militarized border that separates them. With an emphasis on food insecurity, they cultivate communal gardens, raise livestock, make clothing and construct adobe building bricks. moca-tucson.org
The Tucson Desert Art Museum, on the East Side, took a break over the summer and plans to go back to work Sept. 18. Three shows that were still up in the spring have had their runs extended. The Dirty Thirties: New Deal Photography Frames the Migrants’ Stories is a riveting look at the impoverished Dust Bowl farming families who temporarily stopped to work in Arizona on their way to California. The show uses extraordinary photos by the likes of Dorothea Lang to illustrate the horrors they met in the Arizona cotton fields.
All the Single Ladies: Women Pioneers of the American West is a refreshing look at the feisty unmarried women who found their own way on the frontier. Their lives as entrepreneurs, teachers, waiters and madams are remembered in news clips and photos. Buffalo Soldiers: The 10th Cavalry Regiment Told Through the Art of David Laughlin (1928 - 2020) also resurrects forgotten western denizens. The so-called Buffalo Soldiers were African Americans who served in the West after the Civil War. Their story is told in deft paintings, drawings and prints by Laughlin, who died last year. tucsondart.org
Etherton Gallery has a host of things to celebrate this fall: a cool new gallery space in Barrio Viejo, a major retrospective exhibition of the revered photographer Joel-Peter Witkin and the 40th anniversary of the gallery. Over those four decades, from his original digs on Fourth Ave., to the Odd Fellows Hall downtown and now in the Barrio, gallerist Terry Etherton has stayed in the urban core and helped the city revive. Now known internationally in the photo world, Etherton opens up his third chapter with the retrospective show Joel-Peter Witkin: Journeys of the Soul. Witkin, a revered photographer now in his eighties, is known for his elaborate tableaux of people of all kinds, including the disabled and transexuals, the nude and the dressed, the living and the dead.
The new gallery is at 340 S. Convent Ave. Opening day is scheduled to be Sept. 14. Call before you go. 624-7370. The Witkin show opens with a reception on Sat., Sept. 18, 7 to 10 p.m. Witkin himself makes an appearance. The exhibition runs through Nov. 27. ethertongallery.com.
On Sunday, Sept. 19th, at 2 p.m., the film Witkin & Witkin will be screened at The Loft Cinema. The film chronicles the lives the identical Witkin twins, photographer Joel-Peter and figurative painter Jerome.
Etherton is not the only gallery that has decamped to Barrio Viejo. A second photography enterprise, Andrew Smith Gallery, is setting up shop right next door to Etherton, perhaps fomenting an art explosion in the neighborhood. Smith moved from the Arts Warehouse district to a historic adobe at the corner of Convent and W. Simpson. The high-end gallery trades in works of the 19th century West; the photos of renowned 20th-century photogs like Laura Gilpin and Ansel Adams; and plenty of contemporary artists. andrewsmithgallery.com
Philabaum Glass Gallery is just a few blocks to the southwest of what we can now call the new photography district. Alison Harvey, the longtime manager of the gallery, and her husband, Dylan Harvey, bought the business last year. Like the former owners, glass artist Tom Philabaum and Dabney Philabaum, the young couple offers up glowing glass works made by more than 50 artists from around the country. They boast that the gallery is the only all-glass gallery in southern Arizona. Philabaumglass.com
Up in the Arts Warehouse District around Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street, some feisty small galleries are keeping art alive. If you visit, keep in mind that major roadwork there is ongoing.
Untitled Gallery, an artist-run enterprise, was closed for the summer but will reopen Saturday Sept. 4, with a new show that you can see from 4 to 9 p.m. The exhibition, Reflections, will highlight three new members as well as the gallery's founding crew, Inna Rohr, Jessie Shinn, Momoko Okada and Nicola Marshall.
Here’s a look at the newbies: Russell Recchion is an award-winning portrait painter who also takes on plein air landscapes. Katrina Lasko uses recycled materials, paint and plaster to make contemporary work that “often merges social, psychological and/or political observations.” Thaddeus Camp’s art is “heavily influenced by nature… as either an overwhelming presence or an aching absence.” Untitledgallerytucson.com.
Contreras Gallery opened up this summer after a long pandemic closure. Its first in-person show in a year and a half, Chicharra, is running through Sept. 25. The nine Tucson artists, all women, include Carolyn King and Neda Contreras. Michael Contreras also is showing, as always, his extraordinary handmade silver and turquoise jewelry. Contrerashousefineart.com
Athena A. Roesler, proprietor of Gallery 2 Sun, next door to Contreras on Sixth St., experimented opening the gallery earlier this year, but with little traffic shut down again when the summer hit. But fans can still see her cache of artists, ranging from the likes of abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell to modernist Tucson artists like Howard Kline and Jack Busby. Roseler invites visitors to call for an appointment. 520-360-8074. gallery2sun.com
Raices Taller Gallery has been closed to visitors since March 2020, and gallery operator John Saldado has become a master of virtual exhibitions. Next up is All Things Paper, running from Sept. 4 to Oct. 16, online at the gallery’s website. Dozens of artists will present works on paper, one of the world’s oldest and most versatile art materials, using it for drawings, paintings, prints, photos, sculptures and mixed media.
Saldado is hoping that by November, Covid 19 will be on the wane and he’ll be able to stage the annual Día de Los Muertos in person. May the spirits make it so. Raicestaller222.com
The arts at Pima College West have mostly been dark since Covid hit, but a recent press release from the community college trumpeted in big letters: Live Performances Are Back!
Plays, music and dance will return to the stage, and visual art will take its place once again in the college’s respected Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery. Curator David Andres created some excellent virtual shows during the interlude, especially the one on the work of Allison Miller, but now he’s concocted a whole season of in-person exhibitions.
First up is Egress — Works on Paper, coincidentally complementing Raices’s virtual paper show. The artists are three young London painters, Alice Browne, Anthony Banks and George Little, who have exhibited in the UK, Europe and the US. The show runs through Oct. 8. (It opens Sept. 1, before the article is published,) Reception 5 to 7 on Thurs. Sept 9.
Tucson photographers Alanna Airitam and Wayne Martin Belger, will show their international work in American Renaissance, opening Oct. 25. Airitam, an African American artist, creates portraits and still lives that reflect the black experience. Belger specializes in political documentation; he has covered the battle of Standing Rock, Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, and refugee camps in Lesbos, Greece.
A reception will be on Nov. 4, from 5 to 7; a lecture in the nearby CFA Recital Hall will be held Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. The show ends Dec. 10.
Up in the Northwest, Tohono Chul is hosting Visionary Revisions, a show of local artists whose art, is, well, visionary. Royce Davenport, formerly with the Tucson Weekly, Patrick Hynes, Ed Larson, Ralph Prata and the late Mary Bohan, all have the “spark of intuition.” Using reclaimed, repurposed and recycled materials, they make work reminiscent of outsider and folk art. Through Nov. 7.
The annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, honoring the Mexican festival that remembers love ones who have passed, begins on Sept. 9. Manuel Fontes, an Arizona anthropologist and artist, this year joined the Tohono Chul’s curatorial team to select artworks for the show. Growing up with the holiday and celebrating it with family, he makes work focusing on the lifeways of the Hispanic Southwest. Besides Fontes, some 42 other artists contribute imaginative pieces inspired by the traditional altars, saints and sugar skulls. tohonochul.org
Down in Nogales, AZ., at Hilltop Gallery, 730 Hilltop Dr., an exhibition of 12 artists from both sides of the border examines the tragedy of migrant deaths. Called Donde mueren los sueños/Where dreams die, the show will feature painting, sculpture, photography, textiles, mixed media and narrative poetry.
It opens on Sunday, Sept. 12, from noon to 4 p.m. For the reception, Pablo Peregrina will perform music and song. Speakers include activist artist Alvaro Enciso, and authors Todd Miller and Margaret Regan (yours truly), who will read from their books. Organizer and artist Michele Maggiora reads poetry. Beverage and botanas provided. The show runs until Oct. 14, 12:30 to 430, Tues. to Sat. 520-287-5515.
The long-running Jane Hamilton Fine Art venue in Plaza Colonial specializes in southwest, western and contemporary art. Hamilton has some 45 artists on her roster, and the space is always bursting with artworks. Right now, the gallery is featuring landscape paintings by Greg Heil. A reception on Sept. 25 from 4 to 7 will honor the work of a number of local artists. With the benefit of an outdoor space adjacent to the gallery, proprietor Hamilton can extend the opening into the outdoors. janehamiltonfineart.com
Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery features “cowboy and western imagery by historical and contemporary artists.” Sublette has created a museum within the gallery housing a treasure trove of work by the late, great Maynard Dixon (1875-1946). Inside the museum, you can see 150 pieces of his art and ephemera. The gallery also deals in Native artists. Currently, among other pieces, Sublette has an extraordinary 1890’s Zuni Redware pot, and a cache of 1960s Navajo paintings. medicinemangallery.com
Settlers West Fine American Art represents dozens of artists who make fine realist and romantic paintings and sculptures of the old and new west. When you walk in the door, you’ll find the gallery filled with works picturing cowboys, native people, landscapes, animals and more. settlerswest.com
Diane Madaras, owner of the eponymous Madaras Gallery, always displays her own brightly colored desert paintings. But she also shows are plenty of work by other artists. Tucson’s Chuck Albanese is showing his cool paintings of old trucks. “End of the Trail” pictures an old jalopy stuck in a lovely patch of pale green desert, below a lavender-tinted mountain and a big blue western sky. madaras.com