Ancient Astronomers by Timothy Chapman.EXPAND
Ancient Astronomers by Timothy Chapman.
Phoenix Suns

Here's the Story Behind Those Giant Phoenix Suns Sneakers

More than a dozen artists recently painted giant high-top sneaker sculptures to celebrate the Phoenix Suns’ 50th anniversary.

The artwork is part of a project called “The Sole of PHX."

But rather than showing the shoes together in a single exhibition space, the art has been placed at locations throughout the Valley.

The fiberglass sneakers stand about 8 feet tall and weigh more than 400 pounds. They were fabricated in Massachusetts.

Artists painted them inside an empty office space at CityScape in downtown Phoenix, says Christopher Kaiser, director of marketing and brand strategy for the Phoenix Suns.

Several of the sneakers were shown around downtown Phoenix during October's First Friday. On Tuesday, October 17, all 15 sculptures were installed in more permanent locations.

They’ll be on view through the end of the season, Kaiser says. So basically, that means May 2018.

Jumper by Bill Dambrova.EXPAND
Jumper by Bill Dambrova.
Lynn Trimble

“The Sole of PHX” was several months in the making. 

The Phoenix Suns organization started working on the project back in April or May.

“Basketball is a very visual medium, so we decided to work with artists that represent our community and have ties to our community,” Kaiser says. Many, but not all, are based here in the Valley.

Artists got a small stipend for their work, and money to cover materials. They developed their own designs and incorporated elements that reference Suns-related themes. Before artists started painting, the Suns approved the designs.

Timothy Chapman incorporated the animal imagery that often populates his work, calling on his favorite styles, surrealism and magical realism.

Chapman’s approach transforms a Suns basketball into a comet streaking through the sky. His piece, titled Ancient Astronomers, is installed at the Phoenix Zoo.

Fire of Life by the Fortoul Brothers.EXPAND
Fire of Life by the Fortoul Brothers.
Lynn Trimble

Here’s the rest of the participating artists — and where to find their sneakers:

Isaac Caruso
Phoenix is Hot at Luke Air Force Base
Compass Room at Phoenix City Hall

Curt Condrat
Phoenix Landing at Crossroads Towne Center

Estevan Curiel
Shazam at Tempe Marketplace

Bill Dambrova
Jumper at Desert Ridge Marketplace

Gabriel and Isaac Fortoul
Desert Flame at Encanto Park
Fire of Life at the Roosevelt and Central Light Rail Station

Gilda Garza
Amor Sin Fronteras at Legends Entertainment District

Thomas “Breeze” Marcus
Basketry Meets Basketball at Talking Stick Resort

JB Snyder
Fragmented 50 at Mesa Arts Center

Roberto Vargas
Western Champs at Fifth Avenue and Drinkwater
Most Valuable at Westgate Entertainment District

A graffiti artist who uses the single name Clyde has a sneaker titled City Dreams at Mill Avenue and University Drive. And two former Suns players, Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, painted a sneaker titled Transcending Time installed at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Compass Room by Isaac Caruso.EXPAND
Compass Room by Isaac Caruso.
Lynn Trimble

Every sneaker has signage with artist information and an interactive component. Viewers can use their smart phones to scan codes featured on the signs, then get access to team information and prizes through the Phoenix Suns mobile app.

For Chapman, it’s all about sharing artists’ creativity with the community.

He’s one of several artists based at the Cattle Track Arts Compound, and shows his work at Wilde Meyer Gallery. Both are located in Scottsdale.

Chapman hopes the “The Sole of PHX” helps bring greater visibility to his work, and other Arizona artists. But whatever the outcome, the artist says it’s been a positive experience.

“I just treated the shoe like it was a couple of canvases,” Chapman says. “It was a fun project.”

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