Friday, August 22, 2008

RRPC: Public Art, Privately Provided, Part One

I commute past these statues daily.

Our friend Carly has been showing us an amazing variety of outdoor art on her blog for years. Ever since she suggested Public Art as a Round Robin Photo Challenge, I've been looking forward to seeing what art can be found in public spaces outside the Bay Area, and on the lookout for examples here in Tucson. Now that the time has come to show them off, I'm going to limit myself to examples with rather specific criteria.

Most places have government-sponsored public art - a statue of a general on a horse, a mural of some historic moment, a sculpture outside a library or courthouse, that sort of thing. But what about when the public art is on private land, displayed by a business for commercial purposes? That's what I'm interested in showing off - specifically, statues one can see from the street. Tonight I'll be focusing on the commercially available pieces seen at two particular locations I pass every day on the way to work, both of which have art galleries. Tomorrow I'll take you for a swing around Tucson for some kitschy roadside Americana.

One end of the Plaza Colonial, near the bronze monuments

The current bust in the housing market has hit Tucson hard (you may recall that the mortgage company I worked for suddenly went belly-up a year ago this month), but new buildings continue to go up in the Catalina Foothills. There are several recently-built shopping centers along the Sunrise/Skyline corridor, with ornate domes and high-end businesses inside. The corner of Campbell and Skyline is home to Plaza Colonial, site of at least two art galleries, with more across the street.

Cowboy and Indian, coexisting as High Art

I've been intrigued all summer by the upscale shopping centers, especially the one with the three statues at street level. Riding past them with John driving, I couldn't really tell what they were meant to be, and my initial researches online were fruitless. So on Thursday we stopped to inspect them up close and take pictures. (Actually, John waited in the car while I climbed up to the little plaza with my camera.) Today I did more online research and even made a phone call - and finally got some info for you. Let's meet these three figures of upscale Western art!

Addih-Hiddisch, Hidatsa Chief -
looking out over the Santa Catalinas

This first one is by John Coleman, depicting a chief that historian-painters Karl Bodmer and George Catlin met a quarter century after Lewis and Clark. Nine of them were cast in this size (it's 7'3" tall), and it won the 2004 Cowboy Artists of America Gold Medal, Artist Choice, and Kieckhefer awards. There's something about it that doesn't quite work for me, but it's an excellent piece of art. It's very detailed, a careful and respectful rendering of an historical person. It has dignity and gravitas and beauty. I think my problem with it is that it's not as accessible at the other pieces here, and Addih-Hiddisch probably never visited the Santa Catalina Mountains in real life. That's a very silly reason not to appreciate the piece as much as I undoubtedly should.

This is the modern entry among the pieces here. I like modern art, but the setting at Campbell and Skyline doesn't quite set this piece off to its best advantage. It looks very much the odd-figure out among the two realistic statues on the plaza, and from the street you can't really tell what it is because of the distance and angle. The gallery website shows two of its brothers against different backdrops, and it really helps.

Rear view, looking north toward Navajo country

Another angle, showing the intersection

This one is my favorite by far, and it took a bit more digging to identify it. It's part of a series called Fabric of Life, depicting native people (mostly this specific character, it looks like) doing something textile-related. This Navajo woman seems very strong and matter-of-fact to me as she shakes out her Ganado Red-style rug, the sort that used to be sold at the legendary Hubbell Trading Post. The Navajo are from northern Arizona and neighboring states, so it's less of a stretch to see her here in Tucson. I also like the way the artist has used the medium of bronze to give the woman and her clothing fairly lifelike colors.

How many restaurants have something like this out front?

Now we leave the Mark Sublette gallery artists behind and head downhill, south and east to Plaza Palomino on Swan Road at Ft. Lowell. There was a restaurant at the corner there called Firecracker, with spicy Chinese food. That was replaced a while ago by something else, and that's gone now, too. This fall it's scheduled to reopen at Luna Bella, but that's not important right now. The point is that it's another place I go past every day that has statues on display, a few steps from the street. Some of them are fountains, some not. All are female figures, from a variety of cultures, with urns or baskets on their heads. I have no idea why they all have this particular detail.

It turns out they are from a gallery at Plaza Palomino called Enchanted Earthworks. They sell a wide variety of arts and crafts, from western jewelry to feminine fountains. Unfortunately, their website did not identify the artist or artists who made these figures. Tonight I walked around and photographed a number of them for you:

one of the fountains (detail)

The Japanese woman ignores the commerce
behind her, and enjoys the greenery instead.

The yellow woman is a fountain...

...but her friend with the purse is not.

A couple of the figures are encrusted with
I think these are lapis lazuli.

There's no denying that the figures wandering outside Plaza Palomino are not in the same class as the three bronzes at Campbell and Skyline. But I bet they don't cost $75,000 each, either!

Now let's go see what public art everyone else found:

Linking List:

Carly - Posted!

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Momma - Posted!
Sandcastle Momma

TJ - Posted!
TJ's Photo Blog

Pictures of Craziness


Me and My Phone

Wammy - Posted!
The Ellis Family Cincinnati

Vicki - Posted!

Molly - Posted!
Return of the White Robin

Photo Blog (Private blog)

Pamela - Posted!
The Dust Will Wait

Swampy - Posted!
Anecdotes, Antidotes, & Anodes

Instantaneous Exsistence

Em Dy - Posted!
Captured Beat

Jama Hameed - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Jennifer Robin - Posted!
Robin's Woods

Teena - Posted!
It's all about me!

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Charish -Posted!

Maryt - Posted!
Work of the Poet

And don't forget to stop back here later this weekend for the matador, the dinosaur McDonald's and other delights!



Sandcastle Momma said...

Wow! That's great stuff you found. I like the bronze statues but my favorite is the yellow woman statue. The Navajo woman with the rug is spectacular too. I knew we'd see some cool stuff from you!

Wammy said...

What interesting art. You can really tell where you are. My favorite statue is the fountain of the lady that to me looks like a very thin rocket with a face. I would love to try to duplicate something close to that in our back yard.

Carly said...

What an impressive collection! I don't get the chance to view much in the way of southerwestern art, so it's nice to be able to see it here! My favorite piece has to be "Fabric of Life." I really appreciate that you took a front and back photo. It is especially striking as she looks toward the mountains. Lovely, just lovely! Excellent!

Always, Carly

charish said...

Awesome. I love to see things like this I need to find some $$$ so I can start to trave and see these things.

Molly said...

Your public art pictures are fantastic. As I scroll down the page, I am thinking this one is my favorite; and then, I love the next sculpture too. I do like rather the Cowboy and Indian duo and the Fabric of Life "Ganado Red".

Jama said...

impressive 'collections'!