unintended consequences

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Curator, Laura Hales asked, and we said yes!

Carolyn, Mary and I are collaborating. We are creating a site specific, temporary wall painting exploring human activity on Arizona’s people, wildlife, and plants in the past and the present. You’re invited to view the installation and consider how we can restore and balance a healthy future for Arizona life.

WHO: Scottsdale Arts Learning 7 Innovation invites you to the opening reception for
WHERE: Center Space
Located in Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
7380 E 2nd Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
WHEN: Artist reception: Feb. 17, 202, 6-8
Exhibition runs Feb 17 thru May 28, 2023
Free to attend → more info 

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remarkable presence

Suitcase made by artist Jen Urso, honoring a man who owned his own glass business and served as pastor to help recovering drug addicts. 73 yrs old.

Jen contacts me in April: Hi Monica, I’ve been meaning to write to you. First, I’m so sorry about your brother passing, and I believe your father as well? I know you and I can probably relate on all the strange feelings that come along with this loss. I believe I remember you posting that your brother’s death was related to COVID and since you mentioned he was your dad’s caretaker, I made the assumption that this is what claimed your dad as well. I mention this because the project I’m working on is about grief and COVID deaths. Although I’m focusing on Arizona, with your permission I’d like to create a suitcase for your brother and dad to give to you, as a remembrance and way to honor them. You may have seen some of my posts about this project but if not, I can share some imagery of what I’m doing. I can give the suitcases directly to you or first include them in the exhibit at Walter Art Gallery in September.

I should note Jen lost her sister Tina, to ovarian cancer, this last December of 2020.

We keep in touch. I watch as Jen shares on social media, her careful and thoughtful process of folding (with the help of family and friends) and installing over 18,000 suitcases, including a display of pop up suitcases, utilizing COVID-related obituaries.

I recall sending dad’s and Chacho’s obits to her. Not having looked at them in a while, I see new photos my brother’s friends added. I reread them and feel my sisters and I captured their individual qualities well. Jen tells me about writing her sister’s obituary. We share our individual experiences of losing a sibling and especially in this unusual time of physical distancing. I could see she related to things I was saying and vice-versa. We laughed as we shared some stories of our loved ones and cried as we shared others.

I know this was not easy for Jen, but she moved through all the various parts of this work with what felt like complete openness and care. Today she sends a ↓ photo and writes, your brother and dad, together. I’m touched as I recognize the words we wrote.

Thank you Jen, for holding space for life lost to Covid. Thank you for remembering my dad and my brother. Thanks for sharing your sister with me. I will remember her.

Public exhibition opens this Friday and your presence is welcomed.
WHO: Jen Urso
WHAT: Remarkable Presence
WHERE: Walter Art Gallery
6425 East Thomas, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
WHEN: September 17 with a collective grieving event from 6:30pm-8:30pm
Facebook Invite  Masks required!

Three more collective grieving events will be held across the valley: Sept 25, Oct, 9 and Oct 15.  For information about Jen Urso, her installation and event details/locations visit the website REMARKABLE PRESENCE

Postscript: Jen and I have talked about various rituals connected to death including the writing of the obituary and burial/recomposing rites. I want to make note we also lost my father-in-law to Covid-19. He does not have an obituary. Every family, each person, handles grief in their own way and in their own time. 
The experience of losing numerous family members is difficult, to say the very least. We manage because we know we are not alone. Across the planet, people’s lives are forever changed because of this pandemic.
#yourremarkablepresence #wemissyou 


new work by annie lopez


I was at the Phoenix Art Museum on Wednesday, helping to install a small show for Phoenix College. I noticed a compelling installation as we walked through the museum. I asked a number of people if they could identify the artist for me. I guess I didn’t ask the right person, though one employee did tell me the material used to make the dresses was tamale wrapping.

I was so excited by the blue dresses made of what appeared to be paper, but frustrated I could only catch glimpses ( I was working dammit ). There was no label to be seen and the security guard would not allow me to get too close or take photos. This work is on loan, she noted,  it’s an installation in progress. For the record, she was doing her job. And I was reluctantly respectful. I’m an artist -I want to say – I can get close! I know to be careful! – as though any of this could make any difference.

The next morning, with the work still in my head I go to my computer. I am so excited to learn the artist is Annie Lopez. I wonder …  had I been allowed to get closer and really see – could I have guessed.  The 3D form is not familiar Lopez to me. But I could recognize the cyanotypes. To be honest while the blue stood out – the quantity, shapes and styles of the many dresses with text pattern across them – was most catching my eye on first approach.

Lopez’s work caught my attention 20 years ago, when I first came to the valley and began looking at art. I have continued to watch her progress. Her work is never short on the personal. It’s thoughtfully put together and intelligent. Below are 2 examples from more recent years. Her themes of family and culture provoke. I connect easily. The 2nd example below showed at PAM, a few years ago.  Her and I were both 2 of 10 hand-picked to take part in Local’s Only.  Lopez is a photographer and often makes cyanotypes* using her photographs.

Cyanotype is a photographic printing process, using natural sun light, that gives a cyan-blue print.


Defining Disease, 2012


The First White Woman, 2009

I drop Annie an email and let her know I love the new work. She writes back I am happy to hear you liked the dresses. I have spent the past six months making them!

That’s quite a bit of work for 6 month – there has to be more than 10 of these and each one varies in its details. Below is a photo her son took on the day of the install.


Annie Lopez was awarded a mid – career grant from the Contemporary Forum (2012). That’s how she got this exhibit. What does that feel like, I ask – It feels fantastic that I am no longer considered an emerging artist. The other quality I like about this artist is her simple directness. She appears as grounded as her work.

About the new work:

The idea of wearing my burdens has always been intriguing to me. If my issues (or accomplishments) are on my clothes, I no longer have to think about them. They would be everyone else’s to consider or ignore. I would no longer have to say who or what is troubling me or explain what happened. My dress would be like a sandwich sign explaining everything. The cyanotype process and text have been part of my artwork for over twenty-five years. Sewing them into clothes is a departure. These pieces are made of paper (the paper commonly used to wrap tamales), but their sculptural form becomes my personal armor.

Because clothing is such a powerful statement I look at other contemporary artists who use it.  I consider noting some of them. I change my mind – this is all about Annie Lopez.
Congratulations to her on both award and the new work. Bravo!

The installation opens tomorrow, at the Phoenix Art Museum, in the Chase Lobby and runs April 13th through June 30th.

For more about the installation and artist → Phoenix Art Museum

mesa contemporary art, artist reception


The installation.

Lots of activity since I last posted in 2012.
Our exhibit Creature Man Nature opened January 11th. And a week from last Friday, on the 25th, we had our Artist Reception at Mesa Contemporary. It was one busy evening – with family, friends and many fine-art appreciators.

I slept all day on Saturday.


This framed image greeted our guests at the front entrance of the gallery.

I’m including a few photos from the event. If you want to see more visit our exhibition blog → Formal Exhibit and Informal Blog.

I’ll just say the last few weeks – have been full.


Our grand exhibition banner sits on the side of the building.


Detail of Mary’s work in the foreground with one of my drawings in the background.


Mary’s center sculpture strongly connects all of our work. It repeats the vertical trees in Carolyn’s work below, and it connects to the figures and the line work in mine above. carolynm


This is my wall in the gallery space.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with press. I learned a few more things about Mary and Carolyn.

What’s next? We have plans to continue. For now we’ll enjoy the run of the show. You have until April to catch it.

random interference @ modified arts

Saskia Jordiá
Random Interference

Despite a little heat I make my way to Modified Arts Saturday afternoon. Phoenix – based Saskia Jordá and Los Angeles – based Chris Oatey are showing. This is the second exhibition I have dropped into since new director Jeff Cabot took over the space. The first show I saw was The End of the Wild. The title drew me in and the show itself carried a few extraordinary pieces. I met Jeff on that visit. His plans included showing Phoenix based as well as out-of-state artwork (my memory says California, but don’t hold me to that) for the downtown art gallery.

Modified’s current exhibition, Random Interference, combines two installation artists whose works compliment each other. There is most definitely a random energy to the exhibit. But the cohesiveness comes through visually in the unusual mix of materials, technique and quality of the work.

Eutropia (detail)
Felt, yarn, enamel, and wood
60″ x 42″ x 95″

I enter and am happy to see several Phoenix College art faculty. We all exchange greetings. Saskia makes her way to me. I learn she’s from Venezuela and I want to hear her speak Spanish. We exchange a few quick words. I ask Saskia about the new Textiles class she is teaching this semester. She responds in a lively manner and describes herself as an interdisciplinary artist who fits into non traditional, mixed-media sensibility. Some of her students come from more traditional backgrounds in weaving and fabrics. It’s good she says, I teach, they learn – they teach, I learn. 

I’ve seen her work before and I always leave it thinking she’s smart with her content, and confident with her material and form. I’m pleased to have a bit of time with her. She’s warm and approachable.

The piece below is my favorite in the show (detail above). The strung yarn balls feel so familiar. The color, texture and rhythm are strong elements, and the whimsy of the upper area is grounded by the layered solid felt base. I love the red wooden- climbing or descending – form in between, it stands separate and yet connects.

Eutropia, Saskia Jorda
In background Chris Oatey, Pour 1

About her art:
In a world where a six-hour airplane plane flight can transplant a person into a completely alien world, cultural identity is retained through rituals surrounding clothing, language, and food. Having relocated from my native Venezuela to the United States as a teenager, I became aware of the layers of ‘skin’ that define and separate cultures—one’s own skin, the second skin of clothing, the shell of one’s dwelling place—all these protecting the vital space of one’s hidden identity. As an interdisciplinary artist, my site-specific installations and performances map the tension between retaining one’s identity and assimilating a foreign persona, while referencing the body in a transitional space and as an alternate artifact.

Felt, wooden dowels, glue, and paint
42″ x100″ x 30″

Saskia Jorda was born in Caracas, Venezuela and received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She currently resides in Arizona.

Pour 1

Showing alongside Saskia is Chris Oatey. His largest installation Pour 1 lays out in the corner of the gallery. The base is cement. I like the use of materials and the title. The whole environment amuses me.

Chris Oatey
Pour One detail
mixed media (includes acrylic, paper, rope)

Random Interference, New Works by Saskia Jordá and Chris Oatey, will run at Modified Arts to Sept 14, 2012.

Gallery Info:
Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt St. Phoenix, AZ 85004
Open first & third Fridays, 6-9 pm, Saturdays 12-4pm, or by appointment.

Side note :
I stopped into eye lounge where I visited with Rebecca Ross who was installing her Katrina photographs. Next Tuesday is the 7 year anniversary.  The black and white photos are powerful work. The run is short, contact them for more info.
I also dropped into Five15 … fun.  If you didn’t catch the 5155 :: Member Invitational Group Show, sorry it closed yesterday.  Rumor has it they’ll do it again next year.

Davidoff and Thiewes ‘punctuate the landscape’ in a new collaborative project

The energy of collaborating with another artist is incredible.
– Suzi Davidoff

I did plan, at some point, to write about the value of collaborations and residencies. This post covers both and includes two artists whose work I have known for many years. They both live in my hometown of El Paso, Texas.

Metalsmith Rachelle Thiewes and painter Suzi Davidoff’s current collaborative project, titled Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape, began solidifying in Fiskars Village, an artist colony in Finland. Seeded years ago, it was nurtured in a number of 2-person exhibitions. Like their individual styles, their partnered work expresses in exciting variety. It includes site specific installations, photography (printed on aluminum), video, sound, and a hardcover book.

Let me set the stage …

The artists
Rachelle Thiewes is an artist who creates jewelry that is designed to engage and challenge the wearer, making them an active participant, an initiator of sounds and body rhythms.

Light, movement, sound, order and chaos are integral elements of her work.

Rachelle Thiewes
Heat, bracelet, steel, auto paints

Rachelle is also a professor in the art department of the University of Texas at El Paso. She was my teacher throughout my college years. Her influence still affects the manner in which I come into the studio, and the care I bring to most everything I make.

Suzi Davidoff creates drawings, paintings, and prints. A series of walks or hikes is often the genesis for much of her work. In addition to charcoal, oil, gold leaf and ink, she uses found organic materials.

Suzi and I were classmates in both our undergrad and graduate studies. She attended the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University. I witnessed a turning point in her sensibility before she left NMSU, that still carries in her work today. 

They both speak about the influence of the Chihuahuan desert, where they live and work.
Rachelle comments on the light that can be … shriek and sharp and sometimes soft and sensual. Suzi discusses … organic forms that serve as a basis for her work…and found materials that are rubbed into the surface of the paper.

They’ve evolved in their collaborative process. Suzi refers to Beauty. Chaos, their first exhibit in 1999 … Rachelle and I were having a 2 person show at Adair Margo Gallery.  We both felt that our works had a lot of commonalities — even though they were obviously different in medium and scale.  

Installation shots of Beaty.Chaos at Adair Margo, 1999

Our second collaborationAir Patterns, grew from the idea of a book into a site-specific installation.  It consisted of steel drawings on the wall and translucent fabric panels with color and charcoal drawings. We both worked on everything together. 

Air Patterns, collaborative, installation at El Paso Museum of Art, 2004

Suzi continues ... We really wanted to work on another collaborative project, and applied for and received a Fiskars Artist’s Residency in Finland.  This gave us the chance to work without distraction for 2 months. 

Rachelle clarifies what the residency allowed them … time, time, time, hours of unplanned time waiting for us to fill…

About their current collaboration
When we begin talking about this, I have questions.
…Is this your two bodies of work, coming together? Do you influence each other? Do you connect via an idea or theme? Did you literally work on each piece together?

Rachelle answers first…Common Language is the name of our current project, she explains … we worked 100% together – came up with the sites/ideas, built the pieces and photographed.  There are no individual ideas present in this project.

Suzi adds…We share much of the same interests in the natural  world, in structure, pattern, historical use of the land, lots of stuff, and also we both bring completely different disciplines in terms of drawing/metalsmithing to the collaboration.  I think we both feel that Common Language is our most realized collaboration to date, because it is a totally grounded in our ideas/concepts, but the resulting work is unique and different than either of our individual works.

I recognize both artists sensibilities present in the new work. Suzi is correct because result and maybe process for that matter, are completely different from what they do separately.

The images below are some of the large-scale photographs (printed on aluminum). Two are from the Fiskars residency where the collaboration begins.  And two are from the West Texas and New Mexico desert, where their collaboration continues and is eventually completed.

Above Location: White Sands Missile range in New Mexico.

The above installation is at Fiskars.
The image below, I am very surprised to learn, is back home, in the desert.

 Photo below is in  Fiskars.

About the book
The book is in dialogue format and is narrated by Dan Lambert.  It’s a thoughtful and creative read. It comments on process. It includes the arrival of the artists to the residency and notes their natural uncertainty. You read about their eventual return back to their busy, multi-tasking lives.  And then there is all the creative stuff in between and after.

Like I said, Rachelle and Suzy are from my home town, I know the area well. To me they’ve brought a whole new feel to that part of the Southwest desert.

The book will clarify that the title Common Language refers to the Finnish landscape and the Chihuahuan Desert. Though there are more than a few connections between the two artists that allow for this collaboration to work and present in such a sophisticated way.

The books pull is in its honesty and simplicity.

Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape

The video
Watercourse  is the title of the video. I’ve heard only a short demo. It’s layered and meditative…some moving water.  The wonderful collection of sounds are by Dan Lambert and The Double Drum Trio. Instruments include ruan, percussion instruments and water drum.

Left side shot in Finland, right is the Rio Grande.

The show
I can only give you a glimpse of the work here in this post.  You can experience its full depth should you be in Albuquerque this summer.

Visit gallery and artist website for more information.

WHAT: Time Pieces: Common Language
Suzi Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes

WHERE:  516 ARTS in Albuquerque, NM 
WHEN:  May 26 – Aug 11, 2012
It will include photos and video, and be accompanied by the hardcover book.

Rachelle Thiewes → website
Suzi Davidoff → website

lament and acquiesce

I alway get confused for Melissa Martinez. It’s the last name and the first initial.  Melissa is blue-eyed and blonde – I’m not. She designs installations and sculpture – I don’t.  She’s smart – okay, we both are.
We did both have work in the Local’s Only exhibition, at the Phoenix Art Museum, last year.

I receive an invitation to an art show, a simple dark card with the words lament and acquiesce in handwritten white text, along the center.  Melissa Martinez’s name is at the bottom of the card.  Direct, simple and beautiful.

Saturday afternoon, I decide to drop into Five15 art space.
I feel like I’m going into another world as I enter the dark, sparsely lit, bottle speckled environment.  Five15 is long and narrow. I grab the door jamb, I want to hold back a moment to get  grounded before I completely enter and get caught up in the experience.

Bottles hang from the ceiling. Lots of them. The room is a dark cobalt blue.

I hear something, but it doesn’t get my full attention right away.  Back to the bottles hanging, I follow the line down to see the floor is laid out with glass jars, containing water.  The water in the hanging bottles drips and fills the  jars. Some of the jars have overflowed and there’s water on the floor surrounding them.

Melissa greets me. We talk…about the installation first, and then about many other things including our last name, SB1070, and art.   I never stop looking at the work, because it really has caught my attention. We pause from our conversation, and then I hear…the drips. In the short silence the dripping gets louder.  Loud.

I understand why people go down to Roosevelt Row on Friday nights…crowds, excitement and fun…. But in this case, I certainly think the quiet time is best for the full experience.  I am  mesmerized by the installation.

I naturally gravitate to the floor. She allows me to sit among the bottles as we talk about her process and materials.  Idea comes first and then the parts, she says. She uses bottles and jars, plastic and glass, and cable to string the bottles.  And a small device from an outdoor drip system.  She times the drips, steady.  Some bottles drip and empty slower and some faster. She explains the first day she set it up they all dripped too fast.

I  want to do yoga in the space, because of the water element and the sound.  The whole thing…is womb like. Though it’s not warm and comfortable. It’s more meditative and allows for alertness.  I am very conscious of space and time.  The work is emotional, that’s part of the element of water. It’s probably why I instinctively wanted to get grounded as I entered.

In a nutsell, here is what I think…
Visit the installation. Get quiet. Be with whatever gets stirred. Take that in.
Melissa has created something poignant and worth experiencing.

The exhibit runs to the end of the month.  And don’t forget the 3rd Friday reception.

What: Lament and Acquiesce, an installation
Who: Melissa Martinez
Where: Five15, a contemporary art space
515 East Roosevelt
Phoenix, AZ 85004-1918
When: January 7-29th
Third Friday reception January 21, 5-9

For more info visit www.515arts.com/
or contact Melissa at mmsculpture@hotmail.com

I’m happy to say…Melissa is the newest member of eye lounge, expect to see more of her there.
I did jokingly mention to her, I was the first M. Martinez in that space…