Against absurd odds, Lisa Sette Gallery on Scottsdale's Marshall Way can boast that three of her gallery artists -- Enrique Chagoya, Claudio Dicochea and Angela Ellsworth -- have been handpicked to show work at the 17th Biennale of Sydney, which runs from May 12 through August 2010. Sydney's Biennale, a multi-venue contemporary arts exhibition, will be spread throughout locations surrounding Sydney Harbor, including Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) (which, incidentally, has for the first time given over all its galleries to the Biennale). Other venues include the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Sydney Opera House and Cockatoo Island, whose checkered history embraces being a former imperial prison, industrial school, reformatory and gaol (that's Britspeak for holding tank). It is also the site of one of Australia's biggest shipyards, originally built by convicts.
Out of 166 artists chosen worldwide to participate in Australia's largest and most respected visual arts event, 17 are from the U.S. and, out of those 17, three are Sette artists. You do the math, given the hundreds of thousands of artists who would give their eye teeth and/or first born to be a part of this international arts-do.
Painters Enrique Chagoya and Claudio Dicochea, both born in Mexico, as well as interdisciplinary artist Angela Ellsworth, were selected by renown British curator David Elliott, artistic director for the event, which is based on the rather ominous-sounding, but intriguing, theme, "The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age." Elliot's contemporary art credentials, if measured in carat weight like diamonds, would sink an aircraft carrier.
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According to Sette, several years ago, at the behest of ASU's Future Arts Research (F.A.R.), Elliott was brought to the Valley to give a lecture. Intrigued by what he was seeing art wise in the Valley, he came back three months later and did artist studio visits, as well as gallery and museum stops. It was at Sette's gallery that he first saw Ellsworth's pearl-encrusted bonnets based on fundamentalist Mormon "seer" bonnets (which New Times featured when they were shown in Scottsdale), a faux pre-Columbian codex on handmade amate paper by Chagoya, who specializes in mixing and skewering pre-Columbian and Mexican colonial history with global, primarily American, pop culture and several canvases by Dicochea, who updates and lampoons 18th century Mexican colonial paintings called castas, literally "castes," which purport to "scientifically" categorize offspring of different races living in colonial Mexico.
Ellsworth, whose installation will be mounted at MCA, along with high-profile French-American Louise Bourgeois (Phoenix has one of her gigantic sculptures at its renovated Convention Center) will also be doing an interactive performance piece in an unlikely, out-of-the-way Sydney Harbor venue guaranteed to dazzle and confuse international guests as much as she has Phoenicians.
All of the locally chosen artists have ties to ASU: a number of paintings, including a codex by Chagoya, are currently in ASU Art Museum's collection; Dicochea just obtained his M.F.A. from ASU last year; and Ellsworth teaches Intermedia in the university's Herberger College of the Arts.