Big Brain Awards 2012: Meet This Year's Finalists

Hey, Phoenix, it's time for some crowning achievements.

We are among royalty this week, as New Times profiles the 15 finalists for the 2012 Big Brain Awards.

Big Brain Awards 2012 Finalists: The Work

Andrew Hadle
Claire Lawton
Andrew Hadle
Work by Andrew Hadle
Claire Lawton
Work by Andrew Hadle

This is the third year we've asked readers to suggest emerging creatives in our community who deserve recognition and, in the case of the winners in each of five categories, $500 in cash.

As usual, it's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the talent in this city. Don't believe us. Read all about our finalists in the categories of visual art, performing art, design, culinary art and fashion. From bow ties to B-boy moves, we've got it all and then some.

We're having a party to announce the winners Saturday, April 7, at The Saguaro in Scottsdale — and you're invited for an evening of food, drink, fashion, art and performance.

Buy tickets to Artopia and get all the details here. Winners will also be announced online at and in next week's paper.

And now, without further ado, here are the finalists for New Times' 2012 Big Brain Awards.


Andrew Hadle
Andrew Hadle's studio hasn't been this clean in months.

The artist, 30, is in his final semester of graduate school at ASU, where he's working on a master's in fine art. He still has a few weeks until the semester is over, and his schedule has slowed down a bit since his well-received master's thesis exhibition at Harry Wood Gallery in late January.

The Kansas native moved to Phoenix three years ago for school, and between teaching a few undergraduate classes and getting out for a jog, he says he's been busy creating work and figuring out where to store it.

Hadle sits in an old desk chair in front of his laptop. His cartoon and pop culture influences are obvious — a few of his comics hang behind him, a quilt he's sewn from potato chip bags hangs on the opposite wall, and something furry is creeping out of a bag on a shelf far above his head — but his commentary is more subtle.

He says his thesis show, titled "1000%," was a reaction to overstimulation in current culture. He pulls a bottle of Advil out of his desk drawer. "See?" he says. "It's always 10 percent more this or 20 percent more that. There's extra-strength, maximum-strength . . . Everything's constantly one-upping the other. There's no standard — no normal anymore."

His exhibition filled the gallery with shrines to celebrities, soda pop, and Axe Body Wash. He created and displayed high-speed videos using his own footage and borrowed commercial clips that looped on TV screens around the gallery. A small plastic bag titled "sack lunch" was tacked to the wall along with an oxycodone and an Adderall.

It's ephemeral work, he says, for an ephemeral culture.

Now that the show is down and he's unofficially done with his schoolwork, Hadle's busy taking inventory of his materials, past projects, and current ideas. He's taking pictures of his sculpted, slime-covered action figures and three-foot yeti, which were featured in 2010 in Scottsdale's now-defunct Squeeze gallery. He's archiving videos on his laptop and scanning the cartoon characters he's painted on iMac boxes. What's left over, he says, he'll give to friends or throw away.

Once he's out of the on-campus studio and has walked across the stage to get his diploma, Hadle says, he'd like to land a full-time teaching gig — but not before he moves all his paints, glues, fabrics, furs, boards, foams, and tools back into his place and makes a total mess. — Claire Lawton

Thomas Greyeyes
After a long road trip from his hometown of Tsegi (about an hour north of Tuba City on the Navajo Nation), Thomas Greyeyes says he feels stretched.

The artist splits his time among Tsegi, where he visits family and friends; San Carlos, where he teaches art at a community college; and Phoenix, where he says he makes artwork whenever and wherever he can.

Greyeyes, 22, says he's filled with experiences from his two cultures — life on "the rez" and life in Phoenix couldn't be more different. But more often, he says, members of his generation in his community have found themselves straddling the line between cultures and trying to figure out just where they fit in. And in that confusion, he says, is where the art happens.

Greyeyes grew up in Flagstaff and was politically active with a few student organizations on missions to educate people about cultural conflict, land protection, racist pop culture stereotypes, uranium mining, and snow-making on reservation land. Traditionally, he says, Native artwork doesn't discuss these topics and rarely strays from cultural icons and stories that are centuries old.

When he presents his work — images of contemporary Native people and visual statements against political movements and leaders — many don't understand the point.

"There are times when I feel like a black sheep," he says. "But there are so many issues that my generation deals with — both in the city and on our land — that I feel like I have no choice but to express them."

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