By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Alfredo Gutierrez was instantly suspicious. "I was afraid it was a scam," he admits. Luis wasn't. She was a living link to the mother he'd lost. Her name was Carmen. She came to visit Gutierrez and Wilks in Phoenix. They immediately fell in love with her.
"She was really warm," he says. "We connected instantly. I could tell that she really was my sister." As they became closer, Gutierrez says, she told them that she was married to a man who abused her. They began to plot how to get her out of her relationship — and failed. In June of this year, Carmen died. Acccording to local news accounts in Pennsylvania, her husband admitted he hit her with his car.
The news hit Gutierrez hard. He dealt with it the only way he could — through an art piece, created in the studio of his friend, Alexander Krump, and exhibited at "Chaos Theory," a group exhibit featuring local artists, and later at Arizona State University's Dia de los Muertos festival exhibit.
Unlike much of Gutierrez's other work, the sculpture is devoid of humor. It's eight feet tall — a massive, black strip of road divided in half by a broken yellow line, tapered at the top to provide perspective. In the distance, a green papier-mâché car races toward a woman. Dressed cheerily in a blue sleeveless dress, she emanates four layers of brightly colored auras, and clutches a bag labeled "last chance."
Though she seems unaware of the car, death has already cast its pallor. Her head is a gleaming white skull. On the ground, behind a kneeler from a church pew, the artist placed five squares of ragged canvas, inscribing them with a simple, brutally direct narrative.
"My sister was killed by her abusive husband. He ran her over with a car. Carmen had predicted her death. She said that if she ended up dead, we would know what happened to her. She said that. Her husband would kill her."
Krump says he'd never before seen Gutierrez work with such intensity.
"It was as though I wasn't in the room," he says. "When I saw the piece fully assembled I thought, 'Wow.' It was about family — it was about life. It was real."
The sculpture helped launch Gutierrez into the next phase of his career.
Bragg's Pie Factory on Grand Avenue in Phoenix is a yawning cavern of space with vaulted ceilings interlaced with thick, wooden eaves. It's the 5,000-foot blank canvas on which he plans to showcase his next artistic movement.
In mid-January, it will be filled with paintings from every stage in Gutierrez's career. Large and small pieces from the multiple sclerosis series will hang on the walls alongside larger paintings from the series in which Gutierrez re-imagines a Europe discovered by Native Americans.
But the artist is already looking beyond the two-dimensional paintings of his past, to installation sculpture and public art. In the middle of the room, he wants to put a car with two desks in the backseat — a nod to the "car school" of his childhood.
He wants to work in three dimensions — he's moving toward public art. He wants to create a community sculpture garden where local artists can showcase their work. He wants to make gigantic prayer flags and put them on permanent display in downtown Phoenix. He wants to make his mark, and he knows he doesn't have unlimited time. So he's busy.
"For a long time I've been focusing on getting my own voice," Gutierrez says. "Now that I know who I am, I want to see what I can do three dimensionally. I want to take it to the next level."
Luis is an amazing artist and friend. He is fully of joy, humor, passion, ideas, action and partnership. He works alongside others to make their projects, passions or dreams become a reality. Thank you for honoring an artist who utilizes his gifts and demonstrates life's not easy, but MUST be enjoyed and shared with others.
A really well-written story about a great artist and a crucial member of the creative community in Phoenix. Kudos to the author for recognizing Gutierrez's body of work. And kudos to the artist for continuing to create despite setbacks from MS.
An incredible story of humanity and the courses we can take. Have any of you ever thought of how interesting it would be to get on a flight from here to there and interview each passenger and crew member and then write about their lives and experiences? Just one flight could fill a novel...
"...alongside larger paintings from the series in which Gutierrez re-imagines a Europe discovered by Native Americans."
I really have a yearning to see this series. I recently became acquainted with a Native American who educated me on the movement in Europe that sensationalizes the Native American culture.
It will be interesting to see this perspective through art.
Amazing Story... I love Luis with all my heart! He's been a light in my life from the momemt I met him, brings joy wih his very presense and encouragment with every step. Luis is my Hero and I will always love him, forever and ever.
Kathleen D Cone.