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Artist Denise Yaghmourian Creates Experimental Patterning in Former Upholstery Warehouse in Phoenix

Artist Denise Yaghmourian Creates Experimental Patterning in Former Upholstery Warehouse in Phoenix
photos by Thania Betancourt

When artists Denise Yaghmourian and Jeff Bertoncino found an upholstery warehouse on Seventh and Camelback streets in Phoenix that was up for sale, they saw its potential as an artistic haven for the whole family.

Yaghmourian describes the studio as her favorite place to be. The frame of the space is orderly and clear with crisp white walls and a smooth stone floor. In the front entrance gallery, fibrous forms hang from the ceiling, resembling dripping textured tears. Some closely hug the ceiling while others hover over the floor.

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Artist Denise Yaghmourian Creates Experimental Patterning in Former Upholstery Warehouse in Phoenix
photos by Thania Betancourt

Situated on a curving cut out of carpet, slender wooden pieces and metal sculptures twist upward while white netting drapes down.

For this artwork, Yaghmourian collaborates with artist and close friend Joe Willie Smith for what will eventually be a sound/performance installation piece. Yaghmourian explains they will create a transparent structure around it, and Smith will mic the different objects to magnify the unique reverberations when they tap or hit the wood, metal, and chairs that will be added to the installation.

"We're playing around with the idea of communication just through sound and how it changes the perspective of voice," Yaghmourian says. She also admits that working on a larger scale work is different than what she's used to. "[It's] probably more fun to do the bigger works because it's new and challenging. I get up and move around more."

 

Artist Denise Yaghmourian Creates Experimental Patterning in Former Upholstery Warehouse in Phoenix
photos by Thania Betancourt

Behind the front gallery space are two spacious rooms for the couple -- Bertoncino's on the right and Yaghmourian's on the left.

Yaghmourian describes her ideal creative environment to be peaceful and meditative, and, as she says, "an art cave." Though Yaghmourian used to concentrate on one project at a time, she now has several at once.

On the tabletop is a collection of materials and finished artworks, including paper clay figures, studded fiber, balls of yarn, glue bottles, and square boards of gridded threads in resin.

"Something happens where you generate more ideas when you're doing different things," she says.

Overflowing boxes and containers of material line a corner of the room. When asked how she keeps track of all of her supplies, she says, "As I got more things, I got more shelves."

The couple's two daughters, 10-year-old Grace and 7-year-old Vylet, use the kiln in the other corner on their mom's side and also have their own art corner on their dad's side. Yaghmourian admits her daughters use the kiln more than her nowadays.

Across from the tabletop, four strings attach to the corners of a stretch of chicken wire to hold up one of the pieces Yaghmourian is working on for IN FLUX, a multi-city initiative that gives local artists the chance to showcase public art installations. Yaghmourian inserts red felt squares into the chicken wire slots, creating the look of a canopied bouquet of roses (though the final product won't be).

Yaghmourian uses found objects and fibers to create pattern, repetition, and rhythm in her art. Though she is formally trained in painting and received her degree in art education at ASU, she's gravitated more toward fiber art in her career -- an interest she attributes to her grandmother.

"When I was younger she used to sew a lot and had a sewing room, a sewing machine and all these stacks of fabric," Yaghmourian says. "I was always really fascinated by the process."

Behind Yaghmourian's space is another room devoted to photographing work. Yaghmourian says that everything she does now starts with her going out to look for interesting material to work with. Not in a shop always, but in junkyards.

 

Artist Denise Yaghmourian Creates Experimental Patterning in Former Upholstery Warehouse in Phoenix
photos by Thania Betancourt

Set up in this room right now is a piece she's been working on that she put together after a visit to Davis Salvage, a scrap metal recycling center. Dozens of metal construction support beams line up in neat rows on wooden bases. Each has a rainbow glint coloring from too much sun exposure.

"They were just sitting outside," Yaghmourian says. "Some were wrapped in paper, had dirt on them. I opened them up and was like, 'These are beautiful.' I'm still playing around with it."

Yaghmourian says she is naturally drawn to objects that are the same but slightly different, and she tries to keep things simple instead of over-thinking: "I loved how they were beautiful the way they were, and I just wanted to show their beauty. That's it. Without turning them into anything else."

Yaghmourian finds it exciting to find these kinds of objects that are all the same shape but different in their own way.

"There's something about putting that all together to make a piece. It's meditative," she says.

Yahgmourian says she doesn't always plan what it's going to be, and the best way for her to create is to let the meaning develop along the way: "A lot of it is subconscious. Usually I'll see something, and then start working with it and let it happen."

Though Yaghmourian and Bertoncino have made their time at their current studio worthwhile, they're making a studio move to Bragg's Pie Factory sometime in March. "It's an exciting move because there's a lot going on in that part of town," Yaghmourian says.

Yaghmourian is currently installing her pieces for IN FLUX at 51 E. Boston St. in Historic Downtown Chandler, which will be available to see mid-February.

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