As for Chenoweth's preconceived notions about Brazil, the artist freely admits she knew nothing about the place before she went except for what she had unearthed during her research of the place. "These [paintings in "Real and Applied"] are what I imagined Brazil to be like," she says. "I had no idea. I imagined it as a hot sexpot place with volcanoes and jungle and favelas." The whole erupting volcano concept sprung from a friend's tale of a bursting boil on her arm: "Where's a volcano in Brazil? They don't have any, except for one extinct volcano in an archipelago near Trindade."

Never one to be stopped by mere facts, the artist includes volcanic imagery in several paintings, including Trinity Island (Ilha de Trindade), Brazil (2012) and Southern Cross (2012). Ignore the fact that the volcano in the latter work actually is Italy's Vesuvius, though it turns out that the Southern Cross, a stellar configuration visible only in the southern hemisphere, actually appears on the Brazilian flag.

Sex and favelas also figure prominently in the pre-Brazil work. Look closely and you can make out tiny people engaged in deconstructed orgies in below-ground pockets and veins — and those clusters of minute squares strewn liberally throughout the pieces are the artist's rendering of Brazil's notorious hillside slums. "Brazil is sexual, gorgeous; they celebrate sexuality and their bodies. Even people in their 70s have bikinis on and nobody cares," Chenoweth notes. "I looked up as many sexual positions as I could during my research. One's called 'ride 'em pony.'"

Detail from Applied Grace
Kathleen Vanesian
Detail from Applied Grace

Location Info


Modified Arts

407 E. Roosevelt St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Central Phoenix


"Sue Chenoweth: Real and Applied"
runs through December 31 at Modified Arts, 407 E. Roosevelt St. For information, call 480-577-8295.

Given Sue Chenoweth's pre-visit imagery, we are almost afraid to predict what her post-visit work might involve. Stay tuned.

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