Art is where you find it in the dog days of summer. You've done the Scottsdale art tours until white wine pours out of your ears. You've done the local museums and those galleries still braving the heat. Everybody seems to be gearing up for the fall season or lying on the beach hundreds of miles away. But those half-dozen of us art lovers still left in Phoenix may contemplate artworks in two very unlikely and dissimilar locations, in a sort of truncated art detour around town.
Our first stop is Metropolis, the Salon Gallery, on Seventh Street south of Missouri. An art gallery in a hair salon? Why not? Fina Cocina combines art with food. Maybe it's a comment on the confluence of the fashion world and the art world.
You've seen the way people strike poses at gallery openings, clad in black, topped by Daliesque hair, and generally looking slicker than the path to hell. They'd feel right at home here. Art galleries and trendy salons aspire to the same pretensions.
"Getting known as an art gallery is very hard in Phoenix," says Shawn Griffin, owner of Metropolis, "and with the traffic we get here in the salon, I thought we could expand the exposure of local artists." Besides the exposure, Metropolis hosts receptions every other month. "We send out 3,000 invitations, and the response has been very favorable," says Griffin. People are welcome to come by during salon hours just to look at the art, if they can stand the distractions of blow dryers, nail dryers, rock music, and the gab of clients and hair stylists.
So maybe you need something to look at when you're spending five hours and a week's paycheck to get your hair woven, and you've already devoured the magazines. Here you'll find photographs, wall reliefs, drawings and paintings. Most of them are very well done, but unmemorable.
A large pastel hangs on the back wall, showing a full-face portrait of a man wearing a hood. No particular expression troubles his features. On another wall hangs a black-and-white plastic wall relief; it looks like a Hula-Hoop partially wrapped in large melted phonograph records.
The gallery also contains several photographic portraits. One shows a back view of a muscular man arching sideways and looking off-camera in profile. Aerobic meditation? Maybe if he had a big crazy tattoo on his back . . . .
These pieces look like they belong in the backgrounds of ads in fashion magazines. No junk art here, only pieces that are clean, polished and safe.
Few places could be more unlike a hair salon (or an art gallery) than the Thomas Road Overpass of the Squaw Peak Parkway. But it's there that Pat Kouns, a nearby resident, is painstakingly documenting in adobe, right on the retaining wall, the injustice she feels she's suffered as a result of the new road. The story's too long to tell here. Put briefly, Kouns was attacked in her home adjacent to the Squaw Peak Parkway and left disabled as a result. She believes the cul-de-sac the parkway design created obstructed police patrol access. And, she thinks, the landscape shrubbery beside the road afforded hiding places for undesirable elements, one of which climbed in her window and beat her up in her living room.
Kouns found out that Marilyn Zwak, an adobe artist creating wall reliefs for the overpass, was inviting residents to make their own impressions in adobe at the site. So Kouns put her frustration down on paper. (No stranger to aesthetics, she used to design and make furniture.) Now you can see her every day in the shadow of the overpass, working from her sketches, crafting with great skill an angry and satirical scene of political injustice, victimization and incompetence.
Her work looks like something out of Bosch, built up in high relief. You see little arms and legs and parts of houses partially buried in the freeway. Cars stacked three high, "Badyear" tires flying through the air, people crawling along shackled to balls and chains or crushed under collapsing homes. Each image illustrates a political point, and satirical puns ("Un-Safeway store") abound. It only hurts when you laugh and vice versa.
Kouns is not the kind to grab your sleeve and pour out a tale of woe. She lets her wall relief tell her story. She bends forward with her tools, her cane and buckets of adobe beside her, working away. How long does she think it will take to finish? "I'll probably be here until next Christmas," she says. She giggles a lot, a sign of growing health.
"When she first got here," Zwak says, "she was really angry, and people found it hard to be around her. But she's working out her anger this way, as a kind of healing. Now she's a lot of fun."
So Pat Kouns keeps slapping the mud on, in the heat of August, while up north the cool keep cool in secure banality. With the coming of fall we hope to find art that fills the spaces left between these two extremes.
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People are welcome to come by during salon hours just to look at the art, if they can stand the distractions of blow dryers.
The landscape shrubbery beside the road afforded hiding places for undesirable elements, one of which climbed in her window and beat her up.
You see little arms and legs and parts of houses partially buried in the freeway. Art galleries and trendy hair salons aspire to the same pretensions.