Female Gaze: Downtown gallery Raices Taller 222 once again brings us ‘Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres’

click to enlarge Female Gaze: Downtown gallery Raices Taller 222 once again brings us ‘Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres’
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“Saving Grace,” by Debra Edgerton, is on display as part of downtown gallery Raices Taller 222’ online exhibition “Mujeres Mujeres Mujeres,” continuing through July 16.

Way up north among the forests of Flagstaff, the artist Debra Edgerton makes art that honors the multiple cultures of her family.

A longtime senior lecturer at Northern Arizona University, Edgerton was born to an African American father and a Japanese mother. The couple met in Japan during the American occupation after WWII. When they married and moved to the States, they were discriminated. As a child, Edgerton was taught not to speak about her parents’ background. As a result, she told a campus magazine, “I didn’t know enough about my heritage.”

Her work clearly makes up for lost time. Her web pages are filled with photos of her glorious watercolors, a difficult art form that is prized in Asia, particularly in China and Japan. Her portraits seem to resonate with her parents and with her own life. There is a woman in a colorful Asian dress, an elderly Black man and a Japanese woman shopping for vegetables together, and, finally, a close-up painting of a woman who could represent Edgerton: the woman, like her, is part Asian, part Black.

In 2019, Edgerton won a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She proposed a series of paintings called “By the Grace of God. The series, she said, was to be “a reimaging of the notion of grief and loss for women of color.” 

One of those pieces is “Saving Grace,” an extraordinary watercolor about a troubled Black woman. Clad in a shimmering white dress, she reaches up to a helping hand. The pigments are as rich as the oils in paints; and the woman seems real and deeply alive.

The piece is in “Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres,” the online exhibition currently on display, thanks to Raices Taller 222 Gallery. It’s a highlight of the show.

We can, I suppose, thank COVID. John Salgado, who runs Raices Taller with his partner Ceci Garcia near downtown, has continued to show art ever since the pandemic began more than two years ago. The trick is that he mounts these exhibitions online, not hung in the gallery. But there’s a silver lining. With the help of tech, artists around the globe can enter their work into the gallery’s shows. Nowadays many more far-flung artists are sending their work digitally to the Old Pueblo. And we get to see exciting new works by artists who have not heard of.

This is the 17th round for the annual Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres show, which ironically arrived just weeks before the Supreme Court officially crushed the liberties of American women. None the less, the show honors the talents and powers of 43 female artists who have provided a whopping 98 works of art. Plenty hail from Tucson, but many come from around the U.S. And one is from India.

Fans can look at all 98 artworks pieces in the comfort of home, but here are thoughts about some of my favorites.

Quite a few works this year are abstractions swimming in exquisite colors. For instance, in “A Garden Imagined” by Nancy Drigotas of Tucson, a dazzling array of colors turned the garden into an abstract beauty. Her swirling sea blue is partnered with gold and pink and green. Another piece, “Untitled #072,” is ablaze in orange, violet and red.

Diana Creighton of Oracle’s work is the opposite of Drigotas’s. Longing for water in the desert, Creighton recreates California-style pools in a trio of lively oil paintings. With shades of David Hockney, their bright colors and bold lines seem to radiate the summer heat.

Lisa Marie Barber, a former Tucsonan, molds ceramic installations in Wisconsin, where she’s an art professor. In the elaborate sculpture “Alegria,” a large, seated indigenous woman is surrounded by a treasure trove of small, colorful objects—a pig, a hat, flowers. Her work, Barber says, is inspired by the Mexican folk art and Catholic shrines she knew as a child in southern Arizona.

Other outstanding pieces include lovely landscapes by Betina Fink; colorful abstracts by Mary Theresa Dietz, an interesting shift for the artist; and paint, ink and acrylic images of women by Varsha Kharatmal of India. As a deaf and mute artist, Kharatmal says that her art speaks for her.

And for a little bit of hope, you can peruse “KJB,” a portrait of an optimistic Ketanji Brown Jackson, the soon-to-be Justice of the Supreme Court. Thanks to artist Robyn Duenow for a few minutes of respite.

 In addition to mounting the Mujeres show, Raices Taller and friends now are showing their own art in person at the Amerind Foundation in Dragoon.    

 It’s the first time that Raices has gotten an exhibition the respected museum. And they are thrilled,

“We have the entire first floor,” Salgado says, and the 16 artists in the show are displaying 55 paintings and sculptures.

The curator, Eric Kaldahl, invited the artists to supply art about “where we come from,” Salgado explains. “It’s art inspired by our roots, and about our families and communities.”

Raices’ Ceci Garcia, for instance, created a typical borderlands shrine for a woman she calls “Madre del Desierto”—Mother of the Desert.

Other artists include the likes of Alfred Quiroz, Rachel Running, Cristina Cárdenas, Juan Enriquez and Salgado.

Meantime, Raices is planning to “revitalize” the gallery. Through the time of COVID, the gallery has been hosting drop-in Saturdays for people to come in and do art. That will continue. But in late summer or early fail, the doors will once again open for art shows.

“We will do one day a week, Sunday,” Salgado says. “We will start with an exhibition like a small work show. We’ll have a lot of different artists.”

The gallery will certainly celebrate the homecoming with music and food. It will hit its 25th anniversary this fall and, naturally, another of the legendary Raices parties will ensue.

And if COVID roars up again?

“We’ll have to watch it,” he says.

Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres

WHAT: All-women online art show mounted by RaicesTaller 222. Go to the gallery page on your computer; follow the designated link to view exhibition. Click on artist names to see art. See gallerist John Salgado’s Facebook for bio info on artists

WHEN: Extended run through July 16

COST: Free

INFO: For info on Saturday art workshop call 520-881-5335.

Raices Taller 22, 218 E. Sixth St.

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