In an urban landscape dominated by billboards, fast food signs, and other uninspiring fare, it’s nice to stumble on a nice work of public art now and then. Public art reminds us that there’s more to life than logos and taglines.
And the Valley just happens to be one of the best places in the country to explore public art, given the prevalence of works by renowned artists. There's Janet Echelman's Her Secret is Patience suspended over Civic Space Park in Phoenix, Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture at the Civic Center Mall in Scottsdale, and James Turrell's Air Apparent Skyspace on ASU's Tempe campus, to name just a few.
Here are 10 new works you can enjoy right now in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe.
Jeffrey DaCosta created this installation for the IN FLUX Cycle 6 program, which places temporary art installations in participating cities, including Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Located at The Pavilions at Talking Stick, it's part of his larger body of work, which explores cultural relationships within the American West. This installation comprises wooden deer painted with UV-reactive paint, which are set inside a bare retail space where they're separated from viewers by large panes of glass. The deer reference the natural world and "the netherworld of new information," prompting viewer reflection on both what they see in the world and the way they see it.
Franka Diehnelt and Claudia Reisenberger of Merge Conceptual Design created one of several new public art works located on a new northwest extension of the Valley Metro line. It’s inspired by the origins of the state’s name in a Basque settlers’ term “aritz ona,” which translates to “the good oak tree.” The installation features organically shaped canopies placed to conjure images of nature walks, and five trees bearing metal sequin leaves that catch the light. It’s located at the Glendale and 19th Avenue Valley Metro Light Rail station.
Digital Desert, Agave Unfurling
Mary Shindell has been especially busy in the realm of public art, creating several new works that include this piece that hangs inside TechShop Chandler. The piece blends industrial materials with the softness of images of desert plant life. Shindell used plexiglass disks and steel to depict the rapidly growing agave tree, adding hummingbirds because they're a constant presence as these plants spiral and grow. It’s also part of IN FLUX Cycle 6.
First on view at Canal Convergence 2016, this mixed-media installation commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art has been moved to a public art space called the Bell Tower, which is located at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall – home of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Created by Edina Tokodi, the installation is an urban collage created with organic and inorganic elements meant to signal the dualistic nature of the Arizona landscape.
Color Gives Life
Tempe artist Oliverio Balcells painted a mural on a building that once housed a business called Baker’s Painting and Decorating Supplies, which is located at 1930 East Apache Boulevard in Tempe. The work references the building’s history and its relationship to farming in the region. Featured elements include date palms, cotton plants, and imagery that harkens back to the Baker’s paint can logo. (And let’s face it, vintage logos are easier on the eye than some of today’s garish options.) The mural, created through a City of Tempe and NEDCO partnership, is also part of the IN FLUX Cycle 6 lineup. Other public art pieces coming to Tempe include a mural by Jake Early (expected next spring) and a Broadway Road streetscape by Laurie Lundquist and Rebecca Ross.
Created by Texas artist Deborah Mersky, this public art work comprises cut metal screens with images of bats, birds, bees, and moths. It’s designed to highlight Phoenix’s role as a pathway for pollination and migratory birds, and to remind viewers that traveling is essential for humans as well as other species. Using colorful metal screens and terrazzo carpets, which are arranged around concrete imprinted with wood grain, the artist worked to create an intimate room-like space.
A Veiled Aesthetic
Troy Moody created this installation comprising a 28-foot architectural curtain, which is on view at Gallery Glendale at Westgate. The curtain was made with kiln-formed art glass, large-format dichroic glass, and mixed media — and includes large ribbons of dichroic glass with salvaged wood. It’s another piece in the IN FLUX Cycle 6 program.
El Mac Mural
Internationally renowned muralist El Mac (Miles “Mac” MacGregor), who was raised in metro Phoenix and has several murals around the city, recently painted a mural commissioned by Mesa Arts Center to commemorate its 10th anniversary. It’s located on the north-facing exterior of Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, where an exhibition of the artist’s work opens in mid-May. Untitled at this point, the two-story mural bears the image of a pregnant woman holding a red long-stem rose. Also, Mesa Arts Center just revealed another new work of public art called Mesa Musical Shadows, comprising a permanent tile installation with interactive properties by Montreal artists Daily tous les jours.
Kayla Newnam painted a mural with a surrealistic circus vibe for the Valley Metro Light Rail stop at Central and Roosevelt. In addition to the mural, which bears images of eggs cooked sunny-side up and several whimsical characters, Newnam designed a graphic decal titled Eggy Visions that’s been applied to one bus and train in circulation. Also an INFLUX Cycle 6 piece, it will be up for just six months. After that, Such Styles (Noe’ Baez) will create a mural in the same spot – as well as a graphic decal to grace one bus and train.
Joe O'Connell of Tucson-based Creative Machines created four acrylic sculptures with playful curved shapes that dot the plaza of a pocket park along the Central Mesa Light Rail line. By day, they're simple white structures, but during the night they turn bright colors and glow in the dark. The park, which also features a new public art piece by Mary Shindell, is located on Main Street just east of Country Club.