Do We Need Another Hero?

Two shows at Phoenix Art Museum redefine heroes as both victims and bullies

Jack Radcliffe and Nan Goldin focus their cameras on the faces of the dying. Sally Mann depicted places the patients wished to see one last time. Jim Goldberg followed the decline of his father. And Kathy Vargas made small shrines with her pictures.

Goldberg's account is particularly moving. And there are occasional bright spots among Sally Mann's images. But much of the rest makes you wonder why victimization and human suffering have become such a popular draw. Is it part of a search for transcendent heroes whose rise above misery and tragedy rival the martyrdom of age-old prophets, saints and gods? An effort to find courage in every moment? Or have we simply lost our imagination?

"Heroic Painting" continues through Sunday, July 5; "Hospice" continues through Sunday, July 26, at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central. For more information, see the Art listing.

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