Jim Bishop is an 11-year Sedona resident who authored last year's Epitaph of a Desert Anarchist: The Life of Edward Abbey, spent 20 years working at Newsweek and four years in the Carter administration on the Solar Power Commission, and for the past two years has chaired the Sedona Arts Commission. He says what is happening is symptomatic of deeper sociopolitical changes taking place in Sedona.

"The Select Gallery is the first real breakthrough," explains Bishop. "This town has been, like Santa Fe, closely identified for a very long time with cowboy art. Now the demographic of people coming here to buy art, as well as that of the artists themselves, is changing. You're seeing a diversification in style, and I think a lot of people coming here from New York and Europe don't want to buy cowboy art. There are younger people coming in now and they want to see fresher, trail-breaking, modern work."
Bishop says the biggest potential problem now for the rapidly expanding arts community in Sedona is the same one that plagues Santa Fe--lack of affordable housing. According to a recent article in the New York Times, that shortage is also contributing to the collapse of Santa Fe's art market. A lack of affordable housing makes life understandably difficult for most artists. The Arts Commission tries to counter that, Bishop says, by working with developers and local businesses, encouraging them to incorporate artists' work spaces and public art into their building projects. "We don't mandate it, because that is probably illegal, but we strongly suggest it," he says.

What cannot hurt the aims of the Arts Commission is a recent study showing that the 750 or so Sedona artists--up from an estimated 300 in 1991--are generating 25 percent of the retail economy of the town of 6,000. That's about $15 million per year.

"There is so much development here," sighs Bishop. "We have more real estate offices than churches."
Bishop explains that upcoming plans for a new cultural center, expanded artists' work spaces and a nonpolluting transportation system are controversial to Sedonans' nostalgia for the "good old days" of the mid-1950s to mid-1970s.

Bishop claims that the alleged "good old days" never existed. "When they talk about the good old days, they refer to a time period when Sedona was a dirt road with a few rattlesnakes on it. Sedona residents did their shopping in Flagstaff. There are people living here full-time trying to make a living now and we need more spaces to exhibit the talent we have. This town is getting serious." I left the Select Gallery at about ten and met up with Karen Licher, her husband, the musician and artist Bruce Licher, as well as the two suave gentlemen, Zirque Bonner and Fitzhugh Jenkins, whose tunes sashayed the aforementioned bold brunette around the room. Starved, we went for Thai food and further discussed the state of the arts in Sedona, likely purchases upon winning the lottery and the occasional horrors of having a day job.

It was all very delightful, but when the table talk moved on to the subject of how putting plants in different locations can affect the movement of energy throughout the house, I began to get an eerie sensation. My frightened expression prompted sympathy from my fellow diners.

"It's just a very Sedona conversation," they gently explained.

Loose Ends
Listen up, because I won't be telling you this again. Go to the Harry Woods Gallery and see Kay Emig's motel paintings. They are on view only until Friday, September 22, which makes me wonder what someone was thinking by showing them so briefly. Whatever.

The show is called "Motel Fantasyland," and if you are appreciative of the poignant seediness of urban decay, you'll love them. Emig does a vividly colored, smash-up job of rendering its haunting attraction in ultra high detail, recalling L.A. artist Robert Williams. Works of beauty. Much fun to be had at the MARS Artspace, too. Prolific area artist Rose Johnson has loads of new paintings and monotypes on view. Thirty, in fact, many featuring local artists as subject matter. Some pieces possess a light energy and humor that I haven't seen in Johnson's previous work. "Gerald," in his seersucker sports jacket, for example, really stands out, as does "Lisza," who may give you nightmares. Check out S. Mindrum-Logan's lovely and complex mixed-media works and paintings while you're there. All on view through September 29.

Karen Casey Gallery is two or three doors down from MARS. Maybe 20 steps or so. That's ten seconds of your life. Elizabeth Cheche's new paintings, which literally run off the canvas, particularly, "Loss" and "Artificial Roses," are worth seeing. So are Laura Artusio's almost anachronistic still lifes.

Artusio has those antiquated glazing techniques down. She painted the still lifes in the style of northern Renaissance nature morts, but arranged the apples, oranges and other fruit models in ways that Klaesz and Hals never would have. On view until October 3.

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