100 Creatives

Cherie Buck-Hutchison on Why Phoenix Needs an Art Biennial

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison.

Perhaps the most memorable parts of Cherie Buck-Hutchison's childhood were the boundaries.

She grew up in a religious household, where a college education, holidays, and association with anyone outside her family's church were forbidden. 

Such rigid boundaries, however, only made her want to stretch them.

"That made me curious about whether those things and people were as bad as they were deemed," the Phoenix-based artist, now 59, says. "After self-educating myself on a variety of topics, I realized that academia is a great shortcut to many things, including formal art lessons."

Despite such restrictions, Buck-Hutchison's mother was a crafter, and her older brother took a correspondence course on art, eventually leaving the church and selling his work in galleries. "So I was around creativity, and I have always had the desire to make art," she says. "It was a long and odd road for me, but I am happy to know my place in the world is as an artist."

She has reflected on her youth in her work. In a show at monOrchid's Bokeh Gallery in downtown Phoenix, Buck-Hutchison manipulated photographs from family gatherings and vacations to give the women in the pictures roles of power. The distinction turned on its head another restriction from her early family life: Women weren't permitted leadership roles. 

But her work rejects that reality — and resists categorization.

"My work is very interdisciplinary," she says, noting that she works in ceramics, installation, video, poetry, performance, and "photos taken by my parents that I manipulate."

She hunts for chances to experiment and create fusion. "Video poetry has been something I have been engaged with for awhile now. I find it challenging to go beyond merely representing what one is also hearing because poetry is so comprehensive."

Despite the varied methods of expression, Buck-Hutchison's perspective doesn't waver.

"I am definitely an artist approaching my work from a female point of view," Buck-Hutchison says. "I am interested in what cultural devices are implemented toward the sorts of inequality women experience. As a result, I often shift both the social and geographic spaces in my art and empower women in my imagery."

I came to Phoenix with lots of macramé, plants, and a large, wooden spool table. I was a newlywed, and our first apartment was full of natural things. I am still a nature lover.

I make art because I have a big curiosity. I am interested in the what-if space psychologically. I find it fascinating to enter into a subject until I am fully immersed mentally. There is wonder mixed with awe. I get a keen satisfaction when I can communicate through art about something I have been longing to understand more fully. Those moments are what I pursue.

I am most fruitful at night. It seems to be biological for me. I still have to get up in the mornings, but my productivity is so high at night that I sacrifice things like TV as a way to utilize the evenings more productively.

My inspiration wall is full of drawings of bones I have been attempting to make lovely through ceramics, poems, some child art on Post-It notes, a post card of Alfred Hitchcock with a bird sitting on the cigar in his mouth, a picture of Georgia O’Keefe, rattles from a rattler, a painting I made with salt drippings.

I have learned most from my mistakes, my mentors, and being present with my work through good times and bad. Moving through the art as I make it is important to me as a way to get to what I am truly after. Coming from a position of having been a marginalized woman, I am more sensitive to how women’s issues play out in the broader arena. It has empowered me to develop deeper understanding as well as champion progress regarding the equal treatment of women in society.

Good work should always be thought through. Sometimes, a second idea is as valuable as the first one. I like to see what stays with me over a period of time and why I haven’t abandoned the concept.

The Phoenix creative scene is pretty amazing! And there is great potential for the future. We could use more recognition nationally and internationally. Things that could move the art district forward range from national features and criticism to more connections with other art communities to a local museum biennale. I think a biennale would support more cutting-edge experimentation. We could develop committees to focus on realizing a bigger dream. We have a large art community and we need to ask what we want in the future. What does that look like?

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski