you rock!

Joe Willie Smith and I first exhibited our work together in 1995, at the Arizona Artists Here and Now exhibit, in the Nelson Fine Arts Center.  Since then our artwork has crossed paths on numerous occasions. I’ve always appreciated his creativity.  We finally met while members of eye lounge.

This summer I was asked to participate in a fundraiser at the Mesa Arts Center. Artists were asked to paint hub caps.  I was not all that excited to do this. I don’t creatively connect to cars, nor car parts…I resisted. Eventually while having a dinner gathering and setting my table, I got an idea for how I might approach the hub cap.  No strong content, just pure and appropriate design. I just have to say, I didn’t like painting on metal either. I grumbled throughout the process. But I was satisfied with end result (below), and eventually with the entire experience.


Talavera Hub Cap, Monica Aissa Martinez

I dropped into the Mesa Arts Center the day after the opening.  The exhibit titled Wheels and Ink ran in conjunction with two larger exhibits.  I walked into the gallery and saw all the hub caps, including my own, sprinkled across a back wall.

But my attention was drawn to a side panel where a multi-media work hung.  Sound drew me in that direction. I approached and I noticed a hub cap. A hub cap turned into  an instrument!  The work was positioned in front of video, of someone playing the stringed hub cap. The sound was visceral, it was an experience all on its own. As I looked on, I noticed the person in the video. It was Joe Willie Smith! I watched mesmerized. Hub cap turned into string instrument…video of artist playing the contraption…and the sound…the sound…internal and raw.  I got a rush of adrenalin in the way that I get when I look at exciting art work.  It was intelligent and creative.  Joe Willie you rock!


It set the tone for how I experienced the rest of the exhibit.  I carefully observed how each artist re-presented the circular metal form.
It also set the tone for how I came to my studio the next few days. This is what art should do…I kept thinking…form and content.

  • Capture attention in a unique way.
  • Incite thought.
  • Bring one into the moment.
  •  Inspire a new way of seeing…a new way of doing…a new way of being.

This will set the tone for how I approach this sort of invitational, in the future. Take me out of my comfort zone, I’ll not grumble next time.


Joe Willie, is not only a visual artist but he’s also a musician. He really does rock.  He let my husband try out his drums recently. Eddie gave it a try.

I now (as of a few years ago) have a Joe Willie Smith painting that resides in my dining area.
…never tire of it.

Joe Willie teaches a multi-media course, “Urban Field Studies: The Art of Finding” at Phoenix College.

Wheels and Ink opened on Sept 12, and will run thru Jan 4, 2009.  The work is for sale with 25% of the price of the art going to MAC, 25% going to Free Arts for Abused Children and 50%  to the individual artist.

You can read about all the exhibits at the Mesa Arts Center Blog.