For more than two months, I've been feeling like the wealthiest person in Phoenix, and it has nothing to do with money.
On August 1, the deadline for creative types participating in "Wonderland: Art from New Times Best of Phoenix 2009" to submit their art, the original artworks arrived at New Times' office. I have to admit that until that point, the project seemed more a cryptic concept than an exhibition in the making. Asking some of the Valley's most talented artists to create original pieces for our theme, "Phoenix as your personal wonderland," seemed tricky, mostly because we had no idea what to expect.
Then we laid our eyes on the stuff and freaked out. In a good way.
A free Third Friday reception on October 16 at [merz]project, 1437 N. 1st St., will feature performances by psych 101, The Coitus, and the Phoenix Chorale. The exhibit is also available for viewing by appointment through October 31. Call 602-229-8478.
I loved the astounded look on the faces of my co-workers when I carried in Robyn Kingsley's Tiny Cities #5 (Feels Like Home), a 10-pound found-object sculpture that includes hunks of glass, dried plants, and a dollar's worth of Phx Bux (a locally created token that's redeemable at a handful of independent businesses) composited on a modified cardboard box. Or Heidi Owens' through my looking glass, an encaustic work that's an ode to the artist's introverted lifestyle (outside of her Hollywood Regency vintage shop) in central Phoenix. Corey Busboom's original circuit-bent instrument housed in an old telephone — made in the same style as the noisemakers that Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo bought from Busboom — also dropped jaws.
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And it wasn't just these works. Honestly, I felt as if every contribution was worthy of inclusion at any art space in town. We all felt we had hit the jackpot — especially me, because much of the embarrassment of riches hung out in my office for weeks.
It was a blast to come in each day, gaze at the secret art gallery, and think about the artworks' backstories, to which only a few of us were privy. For example, during the same time the Luis Gutierrez was working on his stirring Sheriff Joe, Patron Saint of Clowns — a painting that makes Joe Arpaio into an honored deity — the artist was in his central Phoenix studio crafting a deeply personal piece about the recent murder of his sister. Lisa Jacobs, not wanting to be known as just the "Sticker Club Girl" who makes cute T-shirts and earrings, spent more than 80 hours sewing her exquisite quilt. Mark Anderson, the homeless artist that came to us via the Lodestar Day Resource Center (which is where half of the exhibit's proceeds are going), hasn't been seen since turning in his gripping pencil-and-marker drawing.
Needless to say, I was living in my own fantasy world. Or, dare I say, my own personal wonderland?
Then the day came when the treasures moved from my personal space to the gallery, for public consumption. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bummed that all that great art was no longer a head-turn away. But after seeing all the pieces together in the beautiful gallery at [merz]project and witnessing the overwhelmingly positive response at the opening reception on October First Friday, I realize that the art is, indeed, a fortune worth sharing.