Illuminating Evenings

The art is inspired by nature, pop culture, wishes, heartbeats and human interaction. Flashes of light, bursts of color and flickering flames will be on display at the Triangle L Ranch during the ninth annual GLOW, "a nighttime art experience."

The event is the brainchild of Triangle L Ranch owner Sharon Holnback. She had experimented with illuminated art and was looking to liven up the walkways at the ranch.

"What is the most unexpected thing you could see and hear on the sculpture path?" she asked herself. In response, GLOW was born under a full moon in 2004. The inaugural event mixed artists, art, music and light with a festival atmosphere. The show, constructed by a dozen artists, attracted almost 500 people, Holnback said.

"It just kind of took off. It's really gained a life of its own," she said.

There is one dark spot in GLOW's history. In 2006, Pinal County Sheriff's Office deputies raided and shut down the event, claiming it was an "illegal gathering." (The sheriff later apologized.)

Gary Mackender, a member of the Carnivaleros who was arrested in 2006 (and was even on the cover of the Sept. 21, 2006, Tucson Weekly in handcuffs), is looking forward to performing on Friday night. He will be doing double-duty, performing first for Mitzi Cowell and the Valiants, and then closing the night with the Carnivaleros.

"We're hoping to get people up and dancing," Mackender said. "By that time, everybody's going to want to shake a leg a little bit."

Those who can resist the lure of the dance floor will have acres of art to wander through. This year, Holnback estimates that about 100 artists will participate, including dancers and musicians.

Joe O'Connell is the mind behind Creative Machines Inc. and a returning GLOW participant. O'Connell and his team are driven by the desire to share their art with people. They will bring four unique pieces to the ranch. Among them is a glowing red drum that pounds out the heartbeat of people who grasp the handles on either side of the instrument. They're also bringing a larger-than-life illuminated sphere, dubbed the "Seedpod," that GLOW-goers can peer inside.

"A piece of art we make isn't really finished unless someone else is using it and interpreting it," O'Connell said.

Liz Burke is a site-specific artist and a newcomer to GLOW. She lived in Tucson in the '90s before leaving for the Art Institute of Chicago, but she returned in June. For her, the Triangle L Ranch provided both a challenge and fresh inspiration to her environment-influenced art.

"The space I'm used to working in is a studio or gallery space. It's white walls; you don't have to worry about certain things," Burke said.

For GLOW, Burke knew her piece would have to create its own light and stand up to the elements. One of her creations is a series of sheer fabric houses lit by battery-operated lights perched in trees. Another is contained in a cistern and bathed in black light. Sheets of bright notebook paper will hang inside the cistern, and people will be invited to record their wishes beneath the moonlight. Burke wanted to re-create the "weird intimacy of leaving a note for somebody," and an element of hopefulness.

Karen Medley first attended GLOW in 2009 to give her senior art students at San Manuel High School a chance to display their talents. After she retired, GLOW became an outlet for exploration.

"This opportunity is a new adventure in my artistic life," Medley said. Her first GLOW piece was a play on several themes in Alice in Wonderland and featured neon-lighted, ceramic rabbits. She said she draws inspiration from the funk art movement of the 1960s and '70s.

"Funk art is silly art, kind of. It's humor, and sometimes it can be senseless," Medley said.

For this year's installation, Medley pays homage to Arizona wildflowers by creating her own post-monsoon desert blooms that will shine with a rainbow of psychedelic colors.

In addition to the maze of artistry, there will be telescopes set up along the paths, and a gypsy camp with Tarot-card readers. The Oracle Pie Ladies will sell treats in the main house.

Holnback invites everyone to become a part of the event by donning their finest "glowing fashions." After all of the preparation is done, she will change into her own illuminated outfit to join the festivities.

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