High Tide in Tucson

Downtown galleries take a Summer Art Cruise on Saturday night

The Old Man and the Sea, as every high school student knows, is about the metaphorical struggle between a Cuban fisherman and the biggest fish he's ever had a chance to hook.

More important for our purposes here, the story takes place almost entirely in the cool blue waters of the sea. During these days of Tucson's early summer, the book's a perfect antidote to the heat.

So it's a good thing that the entire—repeat, entire—text of Ernest Hemingway's novella is displayed, page by page, at ATLAS Fine Art Services. It's on view this Saturday night, June 1, during Summer Art Cruise, the kickoff to the summer art season.

Artist James Schaub glued all 127 pages of Hemingway's short opus onto a canvas painted in shades of sea-green. (He had to cut up two copies of the book.) The ocean-fresh colors drip over the pages.

This homage to Schaub's favorite book—a high school teacher gave him a copy when he was 14—is part of a group show about literature, Required Reading, at ATLAS, the downtown gallery Schaub runs with fellow artist Albert Chamillard. Also on view are mixed-media homages to Emily Dickinson (by David Adix), to Rimbaud (Valerie Galloway) and to the whole damn dictionary (Jerry Jacobson).

ATLAS Fine Art Services, 41 S. Sixth Ave. 622-2139; www.atlasfineartservices.com. Reception 6 to 9 p.m. Required Reading closes Saturday night, after Art Cruise.

ATLAS is one of some 10 galleries staging receptions Saturday night. There will never be a high tide in Tucson, despite the clever title that Barbara Kingsolver gave to a book of essays, but Summer Art Cruise tries to replicate a dry-dock tide, so to speak.

A flotilla of galleries downtown and around Sixth and Sixth fling down their gangplanks—that is to say, open their doors—at exactly the same time. For art lubbers, the cruise makes for a fun, free excursion in the cool of the evening and the chance to dip (or dive) into art. Some galleries offer refreshments and music. Below, we've charted out a cruising course:


Conrad Wilde Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 195. 622-8997; www.conradwildegallery.com. The one-woman show Ruth Hiller: Soft Geometry celebrates sculptural squares and lozenges in waxy oranges, purples, whites and a very brilliant blue. Hiller says these "contoured paintings" in encaustic are driven by serious pursuits into "color, minimalism, science and mathematics," but these sensuous candy-colored abstractions look good enough to eat. Reception 6 to 9 p.m. Show runs through June 29.

Contreras Gallery, 110 E. Sixth St. 398-6557; www.contrerashousefineart.com. Mary Theresa Dietz, animal lover extraordinaire, shows off her wildly colored expressionist paintings of—you guessed it—animals in Hot Dog Chilly Dog. In the title painting, a panting pooch, tongue hanging out, struggles through a torrid zone all yellow and orange. This hound's opposite number is a cool white husky, calmly claiming a piece of the frozen North. Hey, wish we were there. Reception 6 to 9 p.m. Through June 29.

Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. Sixth St. 629-9759; www.davisdominguez.com. Every summer, this gallery downsizes, not architecturally but artistically. That is to say, it exhibits teensy-weensy works by artists who normally work large. This year's Small Things Considered: 21st Small Works Invitational exhibits more than 80 artists, each of whom paints or sculpts or mixes media in miniature. Phil Lichtenhan has a tiny nest with eggs in metal and ceramic. In an oil on canvas called "A Critical Thinker," Paula Wittner compresses her usual heroic-sized narrative down to one small pensive face. 6 to 8 p.m. Show runs through June 29.

Santa Theresa Tile Works, 440 N. Sixth Ave. 623-8640; www.santatheresatileworks.com. An all-tile "Monsoon Maiden" presides over this studio gallery showcasing the work of public artist Susan Gamble. The maiden hovers in the storm clouds, sending out lightning and unleashing a torrent of rain onto the desert below. Tile scorpions scurry away from the downpour. Made of the gallery's production tiles, the watery "Monsoon Maiden" stands as a bracing example of what clients and students can create themselves. And maybe she'll bring on the rains. 6 to 8 p.m.

Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery & Workshop, 218 E. Sixth St., gets into the spirit of the season with Lluvia de Vida. Otherwise known as rain, Lluvia brings a flood of art with soothing water elements. George Welch, a retired art prof from Pima Community College, goes right to the source in his "Monsoon." The heavens have opened up in this acrylic and pastel; rain crashes down in sheets from the dark clouds above and into the blue sky below. 881-5335; raicestaller222.webs.com 6 to 9 p.m. Music and food. Show runs through July 13.


Sacred Machine, 245 E. Congress St. This museum and "curiosity shop" showcases the work of proprietor Daniel Martin Diaz, a homegrown artist influenced by the Mexican religious art of his childhood. This time around, Diaz is exhibiting artwork from his latest book, Soul of Science, a compendium of illustrations and essays by scientists about science and consciousness. 777-7403; www.sacredmachine.com. For Art Cruise, the gallery will be open continuously from 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday. Show runs through Sept. 8.

The Drawing Studio, 33 S. Sixth Ave. Like ATLAS, the Drawing Studio hosts a closing reception for a show. Impression highlights printmakers past and present who've worked out of the TDS printing studio, following in the thumbprints of Andrew Rush, master printmaker and a founder of The Drawing Studio. 620-0947; www.thedrawingstudio.org. 6 to 8 p.m. Closes June 1 after the reception.

Obsidian Gallery, 410 N. Toole Ave., No. 120. The coolest gallery space downtown—and I mean that both metaphorically and literally—Obsidian is in the historic train station. Gallerygoers get glimpses of the trains going by as well as the art on the pristine white walls. Gallery regular Don West is honored with a retrospective covering his work from 1977 to 2013. An energetic Tucson painter, West works in a boatload of materials: oil, wax, paper slurry and steel. 577-3598, www.obsidian-gallery.com. 6 to 9 p.m. Show runs through June 30.

Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio, 711 S. Sixth Ave. Tom Philabaum, Tucson's expert in all things glass, turns to his own work for the summer show, Off the Wall. Its title notwithstanding, the exhibition is all about art that goes on the wall. Philabaum's "Wall Flowers" are hand-blown and mounted on small wall hangers. His mixed-media paintings combine fused glass, copper and silver. Four guest artists, phriends of Philabaum, are Bob Kliss, Jordan Ford, Richard Satava and Shawn Messenger. 884-7404, www.philabaumglass.com. Show runs through Sept. 28.

Philabaum belongs to the Tucson Central Gallery Association, which captains the cruise, but it's not joining the high tide of galleries opening in the evening. Philabaum will be open only from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday. Early-bird cruisers can set sail in the afternoon, at low tide, to see the glass, come back ashore for dinner at a downtown restaurant, then hoist sail again for an evening gallery cruise.