state of the art – discovering american art now

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I am excited to let you know my work will be a part of the State of the Art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of America.

This is certain to be a one-of-a-kind exhibition experience – for artists and visitors both – as curators travelled 10,000 miles across the United Sates to visit with nearly 1000 artists. My studio was in that mix of visits as were a handful of AZ artists. I recall the initial phone call and email I received – I really couldn’t believe it ( for the record – I do believe it now ).

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Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

About the exhibit:
State of the Art features 102 artists from across the country selected for inclusion as a result of Crystal Bridges president Don Bacigalupi and assistant curator Chad Alligood’s travels and visits (mostly in person, some via Skype) with artists from every region of the U.S.

About the art works:
· Works in the exhibition include photography, video, ceramics, action/interaction, glass, fiber, installation, paper, painting, and sculpture.

· There are more than 200 total works in the exhibition

· The exhibition will reach beyond the boundaries of the Museum’s temporary exhibition spaces, extending into the permanent collection galleries and activating public and community areas indoors and out. Gallery spaces will total 19,000 square feet.

There is no charge to view the exhibition.

WHO: Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art
WHAT: STATE OF THE ART - DISCOVERING AMERICAN ART NOW
WHERE: Bentonville, AK
WHEN: September 13, 2014 – January 19, 2015

 For more details click ↓image005

Visit the press page here on my blog and see the YouTube studio visit and/or read about the show and my work.

There is more to share but this is a good start.
Did I say I am excited? Yes I did. I am.

I could have titled this post No Woman is an Island.

6 zygotes

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The word zygote comes from the Greek and means joined or yoked.  On a quick tangent – this makes me think of the Sanskrit word yoga which means to yoke, to join or to unite. Here I think physical process, development and growth. And I think mother – my mother.

You recall I am doing an anatomy study of my mother and I want to reference in the composition the 6 children she raised. Initially I think to include 6 embryos. But as I look at resource material and compositional space I choose to set up 6 eggs becoming fertilized by sperm. I also think design: movement, color and line.

The bottom part / the ground of the drawing ( a 12″ x 44″ area ) is where I refer to the developmental phase after fertilization and the resulting one-celled organism called a zygote. The zygote stage lasts about 4 days – ironically equivalent to the amount of time this area takes to draw out and paint – 4 full days of steady, intricate progress.

Here are the stages of the 6 zygotes.

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Hot summers in Phoenix – I draw all day. This mixed media composition is bright and intense – more so than most of my other work on paper.

I need to start thinking about the title of the work and I wonder if it’s still part of the series called Nothing in Stasis. It is, I decide.

the spongy, tube shaped pancreas

IMG_6268Finally I draw a complete pancreas. It’s hidden behind the stomach and in all my studies I’ve included only a hint of it. The pancreas assists in digestion, it breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.

The reason I isolate it in this particular drawing is because It also supports the endocrine system and produces several hormones including insulin and glucagon, that regulate blood sugar levels.

The pancreas sits in the upper region of the solar plexus. The area is the brain of our instinctual animal nature and is closely concerned with mobilization of energy for physical and mental purposes. 

Energetically it is an organ of stability and connects to the sweetness of life.

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pancreas and spleen

My work is not literal interpretation of the body, it’s abstracted and symbolic. Because I’ve not drawn this particular organ prior to this, I feel excited as I read and work. For me it’s a new shape, new information and new discovery. I am once again impressed by the intricacy of our physical form.

a symbol of peace on the earth walk – studying a tortoise

She carries the world on her back, and her home is where ever she happens to be. She knows what’s really important, and what can be left behind. 


turtleskullI’ve wanted to study and paint tortoise / turtle anatomy ever since I saw its structure which included small blades, a rib cage and pelvis. Unlike the insect studies, this anatomy is dense and crowded into the strong shell – a shield of sorts.

These reptiles are crepuscular, meaning they are often most active at twilight. They are generally reclusive animals. When the limbs and head are withdrawn into the shell, the animal is completely closed off.

I get a feeling of dissection as I work this composition. Oddly enough as I move through the body I also sense the creatures vulnerability.

All of my anatomy artwork, human and animal both, represents vitality. The physical form itself continues to show intricate complexity – balanced and so uniquely beautiful. Treat it well so it can do its job which includes steadily and gracefully carrying you along the earth as you live a full life.

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Depending on the culture there are many symbolic associations connected to both the tortoise and the turtle, Here is a list of a few of my favorites:

  •  the oldest symbol for planet Earth
  •  goddess energy
  •  endurance
  • peace on the earth walk
  • links between heaven and earth
  • healer and protector
  • grants long life wisdom and good health
  • a lunar creature

 

una campamocha, a praying mantis

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
I glimpse the grim, green metal mug
That masks this pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

~Ogden Nash~


Campamocha is Spanish for Praying Mantis. I like the word.

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La Campamocha, 12 x 12″, collage on panel

After researching this insect, I feel facts and symbolic connections are a bit out of synch. It may be that the symbolic associations are purely visual. I must say though it’s one odd-looking bug. It’s a cousin to the termite and maybe a prototype of the cockroach.

A little more…

  • mantises have compound eyes that give them a binocular field of vision
  • their one ear is on the underside of the belly (similar to a cricket if I recall correctly)
  • its neck is flexible and rotates 180 degrees
  • life span is about 10-12 months
  • spiked forelegs help them hold prey securely
  • it’s considered a predator
  • it’s a carnivore
  • they can fly (they can?!)

In terms of symbology …

  • mantises blend with their environment and becomes invisible to enemies
  • they teach us how to still the outer mind and go within
  • the word Mantis is Greek for prophet or seer
  • it is the oldest symbol of God.

…. could this be why we found this one staring at us from a bottle of wine….

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Since I began working on this insect series I have received emails that include photos of exotic bugs, names and web sites of artists who depict bugs and many interesting reads. I know many of your favorite bugs : cute and ugly. I’ve been visited by a number of insects whom I’m sure wish their presence known (la campamocha en la botella de vino). All the bugs I drew made some personal connect via a friend or were direct. I appreciate it all. If we could learn to respect the smallest of life it would certainly be a better thing all the way around.

The most recent link I received reminded me of the Insect People from the Navajo Creation Myth: Insects in Art and Religion of the American Southwest. 

… enjoy…the bugs.

organs

My current and in process anatomy work is a life-size study of my mother’s body. Though still in the Nothing In Stasis series, I also see it as a tangent. As you recall my last painting was of my niece. I consider this work and the last as studies of anatomy, studies of the female form, and maybe studies of inheritance.

While there is bone and muscle structure, they are not primary in this composition as much as they’ve been in earlier art works. I’m thinking more in terms of organs and tissues. I sketch and outline for a long time before I decide how to approach things.

IMG_6177I like the shape of particular organs especially the ones of the immune system, which I am so curious about. I spend time researching the thyroid and the thymus. The butterfly shaped thyroid is found in the lower part of the neck.and affects every cell in the body. The thymus sits below the breast bone and is larger in a child than it is an adult. I find it contradicting  that it begins to shrink at puberty. I look at various tissue including adipose tissue. It’s lovely under a microscope.

Each organ takes a few days to complete because the work is compact – I want it dense and colorful.

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My mother had her gallbladder removed. I include it early on because again I like the shape. It reminds me of how a leaf looks growing off the stem of a plant. Eventually I remove it and place it into the background of the composition. The gallbladder is the first form that fills the lower space behind the physical body – it will appear as if growing out of the earth. I leave a trace of it where it once sat just under the liver. While the physical shape is gone, the energy of the organ remains.

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It’s interesting doing this particular work. The fact that this is my mother and the body of a woman who is 20 some years older than I am makes it familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time –  difficult and fascinating.

I consider this work a meditation for sure.

artist / sheep shearer = educator

After moving through her living and work space I ask Aimee León how she sees herself – as artist or shepherd. Both, she replies. Aimee is also an educator – the community (me and you) is her target audience. I spend an afternoon speaking with her about animals, humans, sheep shearing, wool, sustainability, art making and community engagement.

Below is an earlier artwork shot and a detail. I find it elegant.

Aimee León
Follicle Series #1
wet-felted wool, steel stake
2012

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Detail

Aimee takes me through her home and introduces me to her animals – 2 dogs, a parrot named Lucy, numerous cats and 2 foster kitties. I look around and note sheep stuff. Lots of it.

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Aimee’s weaving.

There are lots of fleece: bagged, boxed, raw, hand and machine spun, balled, strung, loose, and bundled. I hold the various forms – feel, smell, admire it all.

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IMG_6130I admit to her the culture of sheep, felting and wool is foreign to me – particularly understanding where and how wool and yarn is processed. She understands. She tells about the work and intensity of shearing, it’s physical and dirty. We discuss how various communities of people are affected by our general lack of knowledge and appreciation for the material and work – in Arizona this directly affects the Navajo.

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labeled boxes and bags of fleece from all over the world

She’s traveled the state, the country and the world, and sheared many a sheep.  You’ll find bags and boxes of fleece labeled Churro Ram, Faroese 2013, Shetland 2013, Alpaca, Llama, Lamb fleece …. etc.  I’m trying to hold the information, it’s much and it’s new. Right now I wish I had more photos to share with you but the act of moving through her work space and listening to her – has my full attention. Mostly I forget the camera until I remember it. I see 3 ram horns and pick two dark, textured, brown ones up. I find them heavier than I imagine them to be. Right now I wish I’d photographed them, they’re beautiful.

Aimee León is an artist and Sheep Shearer. I call her Shepard at the beginning of this post because I think her work is about the care of sheep – in a bigger way.

Did I mention Aimee is also a graduate student in the art department at ASU,  who will be completing her thesis this Fall. Her area of emphasis is Intermedia. By now you know she works with wool. And her projects involve community engagement.

About the ART work/the project → {re}collectingtheheardbeast

I ask Aimee what the work will be – a sculpture? a weaving? She says it will be all at once a sculpture, weaving, and installation. She envisions it 10 ft high, by 50 ft long, and suspended in a clockwise spiral 2 ft off the ground. The length and the way it suspends will allow people to walk within the spiral to the center and back out, and will allow them to view the weaving as they walk through it. She finishes by explaining the weft (the horizontal yarns) will guide you as you walk through the spiral.

As I indicated the project includes and calls for participation of community. Things have already been put into motion as she placed a call for yarn and is receiving it from around the country. If you have yarn to donate, contact her.

What: {re}collectingtheheardbeast  (MFA Thesis exhibition)
When: the public weaving begins August 15th
Where: She is scouting locations in downtown Phoenix. If you know of any, contact her – it’s community engagement.

One more time, in a nut shell:
Aimee León is collecting, hand spinning, and steam setting wool, about 100 lbs of it – in preparation for her MFA Thesis show. She will start to construct/weave a sculpture that hangs in space from roof to floor on August 15 – with the help of the community (that’s you). The public activity of weaving will continue for a month and will be completed by September.

If you are interested in weaving and/or working on the sculpture or donating yarn, or you want to read more about her work and project contact her via → {re}collectingtheheard beast.

I thank Aimee for the afternoon, we exit out the back door and she shows me freshly cleaned and now drying yarn. She explains how she soaked it in a tub, in a mix of water and vinegar, and then hangs it out to dry, in the sun.

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Bye Aimee. Thanks for the afternoon. I learned so much.

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Aimee León will complete an MFA  in Intermedia at Arizona State University.
Consider contributing to her yarn gathering, to the weaving, or buy – on the needed occasion – some real wool instead of synthetic fabric. I understand the ball is in our hands.

I suggest you look at all of Aimee’s sites, the photography is absolutely wonderful and her writing is eloquent -access through Aimee León’s → artist website and her thesis website →{re}collectingtheheardbeast

sheep is life

a jerusalem cricket

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This bug is neither from Jerusalem nor is it related to a cricket. It is found across the western United States and Mexico. Years ago I met one in the Texas desert. It jumped, I ran. In Spanish it is called Niño de la Tierra - which translates to Child of the Earth. The one I met had a lighter colored head, more truly like a baby. This one is darker.  They are also known as Potato Bugs. They have many Navajo names that all refer to the insects head:

c’ic’in lici (Tsiitsʼiin łichíʼí) “red-skull”
c’os bic’ic lici (Chʼosh bitsiitsʼiin łichíʼí) “red-skull bug”
c’ic’in lici’ I coh (Tsiitsʼiin łichíʼítsoh) “big red-skull”
wo se c’ini or rositsini or yo sic’ini (Wóó tsiitsʼiin/Yaaʼ tsiitsʼiiní) “skull insect”

While the nocturnal insect has strong mandibles it has a supposed meek disposition. It may bite if threatened – but no worry, the bite is not venomous.

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I think my almost complete painting resembles Talavera pottery. Somehow it goes from creepy (above) to sweet (below). I had the similar challenge with this bug as I had with the Palo Verde Beetle.  I work at keeping translucent what should really be darker  and opaque – so one could still note the anatomy. I may go darker if I find a balance.

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Every summer for the last few years, I spend a week doing a drawing a day. This year I focus on a series of small bug works. The time line is more like a bug a week. I intended to only make four, but as bugs came my way (via friends) I kept thinking – only one more. I enjoyed the learning experience so much I doubled the plan.

Some of my bugs will show at the i.d.e.a. Museum in an invitational  titled Jeepers Creepers – Bugs in Art Exhibition. The show opens in October and will be in partnership with the ASU natural history entomology collection.

This Jerusalem Cricket is commissioned by Liz Casebolt and her cat Charlie Goodyear. Liz was my neighbor here in Phoenix. She now lives in Burbank – hence the AZ and CA maps in the background of the artwork.

Thanks Liz –  No Woman is an Island.

label and separate

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Label and Separate, Hand painted Intaglio Print, 10 x 8″, 2007

In the last few weeks I had opportunity to connect with several individuals (unrelated) working on oral history projects. The focus:  art and culture – on being an artist and on being Mexican-American.

I enjoy one meeting in particular because the focus is on Arizona artists and the particular discussion includes labels like Chicana/o, Latina/o, Mexican-American and Hispanic. Robert (who is creating the project) and I talk about why we might take on or resist such labels – or connect with some and not others.

I’ve had intelligent and worthwhile conversation about culture and labels in the last few years, with a number of people. While willing to discuss, I may or may not always know  where I stand. To add to things, I recently contacted a museum in El Paso (my hometown) and noted I was an El Pasoan, and soon I realized – I am not. At least in the eyes  of someone else – I am an Arizonan though I come from Texas.

I was born in El Paso, Texas and attended the University of Texas. I moved to New Mexico where I received an MFA. My husband and I came to Arizona so he could continue his education. We never imagined 20 years later, we’d still be here.

I am female and I am artist – lucky for me, those things are clear if not always simple. I am … I am … I am.

Sometimes I prefer to just stop at  the I am.

I believe at our very core we are creativity in motion. And we are like that bucket of water that is for a short time, separated from the ocean. The question always becomes – are you the bucket of water or are you the ocean it came from? As artists, there are moments we are aware of that vast ocean.

In terms of education and recording history, the discussion and the connections are valuable – they serve a broader purpose for what was, what is, and what may be. I appreciate the ebb and flow. That’s life, things change. Am I American?  Latina? Chicana? Mexican-American? Hispanic? We label and separate, only to come back with a clearer vision of who we are.

I think about this often. I appreciate the discussion. I look forward to giving you more info as the project unfolds.


side note:
A few years ago I worked on a series called Another Mental Concoction  that  posed the questions :
Who am I? What am I? What is this world and what is my relationship to it?
I come back to this over and over. It serves a purpose.

Click on the image to see the work.

who said

I Am – Yo Soy

bringers of order

 

10295788_10152374168442298_6840564971639320488_nI spend a long time looking at this Carpenter Bee though a lighted magnifying glass. The beautiful copper and gold wings determine I will complete my bug series with it. The abdomen is shiny black and has hair only along the edge. Based on what I’ve read I suspect this one is female.

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The external body of this bug appears hard and opaque and I try to imply that with a dark contour, but I get so caught up in detailing the organs – it could appear that I have created another sort of bug. My composition is bright and jewel toned.

I don’t know that this looks like a Carpenter Bee in general – it seems more like an ant, or a wasp. They’re all related – all are of the order of insects called Hymenoptera (hymen – membrane and ptera - wing).

 

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Out of curiosity I research bee mythology and in general, throughout time, bees have a reputation as bringers of order. What does it really mean, that they are dying off these days? Are we closing one era of order to bring in another?

I’ve enjoyed these bug compositions. It’s an unusual tangent for me. My thought these days is that while we study insects in grade school, we should revisit that study as adults. Life varies and is purposeful – it deserves our respect.

tale of a hawk moth

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You landed on my screen door to get photographed and drawn, didn’t you? I ask the striking creature / bug / moth that clings to my screen door one early morning, last week. It’s there all day and doesn’t seem bothered while we enter and exit. First thing the following day, I go to the door and sadly – it’s gone.

Liz, a friend who lives in California, sends a text - Is this the same kind of moth you had on your door yesterday? Did my moth fly to California overnight to visit Liz? One can think that with the photo that is attached.

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I learn (via Facebook where I’d posted the photo) it’s a Hawk Moth. It flies like a hummingbird, Dave writes. Donna comments it’s a White Lined Sphinx Moth an important pollinator, especially of my neighbors Sacred Datura. Nature is amazing, says Nancy. And as though reading my mind Dominique notes … as your reputation spreads among the arthropods you will surely encounter more six-legged friends. Just keep the screen doors deployed. And it’s unanimous – Yes! It arrived to be drawn.

After more reading : I conclude the reason it left at night is because it’s nocturnal and if it did go to California, it did so because it can go without eating for long periods of time.

Here is the Hawk Moth.

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The questions at the start: Do I focus on the external design of the moth? Do I try to include internal anatomy?  I do a bit of both.

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I include its larvae (and anatomy) which is medium to large with a stout body.

IMG_6000When complete the organs I include make it appear like some sort of wired, electrical moth. I’ll leave the wings as they are – dark, dense and lined. And furry – the moth appears to have hair – but in fact it has scales and they keep it warm as it flies at night.IMG_5999

I talk to Robin, a neighbor, and I tell her about the great moth at my door. She looks horrified. I guess some people find them creepy. I don’t. Though I learn something that I’ll keep from her – some Hawk Moths can have a tongue as long as 14 inches. Not this one, I’m sure.

…one more composition for the bug exhibit.

today i am a fly

Today I am a fly – it’s all I could think while painting the one image below.

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Fly (detail) – casein collage on panel, 8 x 8″

From the start of this bug series, I want to paint a house fly. Here is what I know: flies carry over 100 pathogens, they feed on liquid or semi-liquid substances besides solid material (softened by saliva or vomit), and they deposit feces constantly, their entire body is covered with hair (like) projections, and the female is bigger than the male.

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis come to mind.

I work on the small 8 x 8″ for a good while, but it’s good to be done. I don’t want to be a fly anymore.

Below is a detail of the grasshopper I painted. I don’t know why I didn’t post it before. I painted it for its symbolic association – one who has much to learn.

I also learn I should always photograph a work before I varnish it, otherwise the sheen interferes.

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Grasshopper detail , varnished casein collage on panel, 10 10″

Certain I was only going to make 4 works for this invitational exhibition. I woke up early to organize this post and when I open my front door, this sits on  the screen at eye level – a beautifully symmetrical moth – I am told it’s a hawk moth. Has it arrived to be drawn? I wonder.

While contour line, pattern and texture of the insect are alluring, I would want to include its anatomy. That seems like a challenge.  I’ve already gotten back to my figure studies, but this bug show is not for a good while. I have a few more small panels. I might find time for another bug.

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meta-mor-pho-sis

metamorphosis noun
: a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something

biology : a major change in the form or structure of some animals or insects that happens as the animal or insect becomes an adult


I learn more about the Palo Verde Beetle than I ever intend. Many people appreciate it and its particular clumsiness.  When it surfaces – only to mate and then die – you can assume it’s 3 weeks before our first monsoon storm.

I have come across it both at its larvae stage and in its full mature stage. For the most part my images are meant to be internal anatomy studies. But in this case the  external form is provocative – dark, opaque and hard – like a suit of armor – I can’t ignore it. So the anatomy is in there, but the external presence of the bug remains primary.

I am glad to be done with it. The painting itself is more startling than these photos.

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palo verde beetle

I received an invitation to take part in – of all things – a Bugs in Art themed show.  I wouldn’t naturally do this sort of examination, but because it is so out of my comfort zone - why not. I enjoy studying life and maybe I enjoy overcoming fears.

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This Palo Verde Root Borer has been one interesting challenge. A friend gave me the creäture. I know it’s not alive but I am nervous the entire time I paint.

IMG_5930It is oddly beautiful in its larva stage – it is large, yellow with bright red dots – and can live for 3 years before emerging from the ground. The adult on the other hand – is black or brown in color, has long antenna’s, and spines on the thorax which form a collar around the “neck” of the beetle. They have wings and can fly. The mature beetle emerges in the humid summer months to mate and dies soon afterward; adult lifespan is about one month.

Derobrachus geminatus – this longhorn beetle is native to the American Southwest and northern Mexico. It derives its name from the Palo Verde tree. It is one of the largest beetles in North America and can reach up to three and a half inches in length. I met my first one soon after moving to Phoenix. I might never have come here if I’d known about this bug.

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Palo Verde Study – mixed media collage – 10″ x 10″

I’m not complete with the composition. After laying it out I decide to show the wings.  I photograph  and post at this stage only because I know the work is going to change again. This is an anatomy study, as best I can figure out the bugs insides, I take liberty especially with color. I add green because it should be verde even if only in my imagination. I will darken things up a bit more soon. Maybe.

After spending several days looking at it under a magnifying glass I decide the creepiest  thing about the bug are the antenna’s. Next bug I paint will be something less intimidating – I need the break.

 

2014 governor’s arts awards

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In early March I was contacted by Jessica Rajko, Artist Services Coordinator at the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The commission was interested in purchasing one of my artworks to be awarded to an honoree at the 2014 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Since 1981, distinguished Arizona artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals have been recognized for their passion, creativity, and devotion to furthering the excellence and diversity of Arizona’s arts and cultural community. Each year, six awards are presented in six categories. Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts, with support from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, selects and invites six Arizona artists to provide a work that will be presented as an award.

I sent several available works. They made the final choice – a limited edition lithograph titled Alchemical Action. I would be presenting the award along with previous recipient David Ira Goldstein.

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David Ira Goldstein, Monica Aissa Martinez, and honoree Daniel Buckley

I had the pleasure of handing my artwork to Tucson artist and performance art pioneer Daniel Buckley, who spent 22 years with the Tucson Citizen before creating a documentary film series about the political and social evolution of Tucson’s Mexican-American population. He was awarded Artist of the Year. After photos we took a moment to remember mutual friend and arts advocate Ruben Hernandez, who recently passed away.

1959283_10152408718036929_1368868076_nCongratulations to Daniel and all the other honorees. For more information about the Governor’s Arts Awards and a list of all the winners – visit the website here: http://www.governorsartsawards.org/

The ceremony was held on March 25th at the Mesa Arts Center. The program was filled with dance, music, creative people with great words of community and thanks. I note it was preceded by one of our Arizona haboobs – all of it memorable for sure.


About the lithograph:

The Limited Edition Lithograph Al Chemical Action is based on a drawing titled Al-Chemical Reaction. Commissioned in 2000, by the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University. I worked with master printer Joe Segura at Segura Publishing to complete the work which is published in Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art, Volume l.

And because we discussed Ruben Hernandez, here is the article he wrote about my work in March of 2009 → ” Lantino Perspectives titled “Mind Matters”.