Best Of Tucson®

Best Visual Artist

Steve Farley

READERS' PICK: Steve Farley's Broadway murals are a lasting monument to the little people of Tucson, which is probably why passersby love them more every single day. One of the most popular pieces of public art to come along in a quite some time, Farley's black-and-white photographic tiles replicate the work of a street photographer who toiled on Congress Street circa 1930 to 1960. The unsung photog caught little kids looking puzzled, young college men loping along, pretty high school girls grinning, the elderly stepping along in high style. Farley translated the photographer's work into ceramic tiles, which on close inspection dissolve into a pleasant abstraction of white, gray and black shapes. Put together, these small geometries re-created these people of Tucson's past, larger than life. (There is one celebrity--a portrait of the musician Lalo Guerrero as a young man.) The irony of yesteryear's pedestrian throngs mounted in a downright awful underpass is one of the piece's nicest touches. Farley's subtext is that a city needs a healthy heart, a downtown pulsing with people and life.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: David Tineo for years has painted the town. Named Best Visual Artist by Tucson Weekly readers in 1998, he's improved some of Tucson's most ragtag spaces and bland façades with the vivid imagery of Mexican mythology, painted in the colors of Mexican folk art. His corn goddesses and serpents, eagles and stars, fire and comets are all over the place. Most recently he made "Rock Soup," a wild painting that covered the walls and ceiling of Raices/Taller 222 gallery. With "Raices," a sprawling mural on the north wall at the Tucson Museum of Art, Tineo and collaborator Antonio Passos made a breakthrough for the mural genre, bringing it from the barrio wall to the city's mainstream art institution. Other Tineo works around town: "Four Winds" at the El Rio Neighborhood Center; a collection of 10 murals in El Charro restaurant; "Compass to the Southwest" on the UA Press building on Park Avenue; "Sueño de Cuauhtemoc" at Pima College Downtown Campus; "Historia de la Raza" in the South Tucson Civic Center. A dozen public schools from the poverty-stricken South Side on up to the rarefied Foothills are graced with kid-painted murals supervised by teacher Tineo.

LOOSE CHANGE: Two up-and-coming women artists have painted the town in ways of their own. Joanne Kerrihard, a luminous painter of strange spaces, and Julia Latané, a sculptor not only of cloth objects but of hard plastic candies, are both becoming well known. And, interestingly, they represent polar-opposite trends in art. Kerrihard is a painter's painter who layers her oils with Old Master-ly precision. Over the years she's moved from haunting Italianate landscapes with heartbreakingly beautiful skies, to interior spaces filled with elusive circus poles and drifting objects. This fall Kerrihard, a Dinnerware alumna, moves on to the Tucson Museum of Art for a one-woman show: She's this year's Stonewall Artist. If Kerrihard is embedded in a centuries-old painterly tradition, Latané is a wild woman of contemporary art, a groundbreaker whose work bears no vestige of the old academy. She won a prize at the TMA's Biennial last year for a stitched cloth sculpture that looked for all the world like Miss Liberty's crown. Recently she turned to hard plastic sculpture, exhibiting larger-than-life candies at Elizabeth Cherry Contemporary Art, becoming one of the few local artists to break into the Cherry gallery, which typically lionizes Euro and coastal avant-garde. Latané has spent much time away from her own art in recent years trying to get the Museum of Contemporary Art off the ground.