9 Best Things We've Seen in Metro Phoenix in 2015 — So Far

Just midway through the year, we've already spotted several works that stand out from all the rest — from a dance festival featuring emerging and established artists to a graduate art student video conjuring the spirit of a famed contemporary artist. Here are a few of the best things we've seen in mural art, dance, public art, and more. 

Industrial Pipe Wave 
Scottsdale Public Art commissioned Birmingham artist Christopher Fennell to create a large sculptural wave of salvaged industrial pipe, in addition to three small sculptures at the site located near a water treatment facility by a section of the Arizona canal and the Cattletrack Gallery off McDonald Road. Fennell stopped often during construction of Industrial Pipe Wave, undertaken in part during the three-day Canal Convergence festival in late February and early March, to talk with curious people who passed by – giving onlookers the chance to learn more about his process while exploring its results.

ARTELPHX 2015, held May 15 and 16 at The Clarendon Hotel, included a mix of visual and performance art presented in hotel rooms and common spaces — including Transformation by Raphael Navarro and Holly Anderson. The work, comprising white paper butterflies lit by black light — some formed into the shape of a seated figure in the lotus position — demonstrated a beauty of simplicity that trumped several of the event’s more complicated pieces. A small trail of butterflies along a hallway near their exhibition space beckoned visitors, who stood mesmerized for many minutes after encountering the elegant work.

Beta Dance Festival
Several individual artists and dance companies performed at Phoenix Center for the Arts on May 30 as part of a one-evening showcase called the Beta Dance Festival, an event designed to introduce local dance aficionados and new audiences to fresh “artistic voices of movement.” The program featured strong performances and creative choreography delivered in diverse pieces that reflected a wide range of human emotions from elation to despair. Emerging and established artists shared the stage, offering evidence that the local dance scene is far from stale or static.

“Chamber Music: A Mostly Silent Installation”
This exhibition, which opened in January in the intimate North Gallery space at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, featured an installation created by Prescott artist Diane Gilbert using only previously played guitar strings and small squares of screen, shaped in part into a pathway museum-goers could traverse while exploring its various elements hung all around them. The exhibition also featured suspended sculptures made with the same materials, which cast delicate shadows which became additional works of art in the gallery space.

Exploding Plastic Inevitable
Phoenix Art Museum’s Andy Warhol theme bash, held during First Friday on March 6 right before Art Detour weekend, succeeded in achieving ArtLink’s “Connect the Dots” theme by blending visual, literary, and performance art with a twist of social savvy — all inspired by a party Warhol himself once threw. The event drew a significant crowd of folks of all ages, who enjoyed the “Andy Warhol: Portraits” exhibition plus performances by local artists and a nifty installation of silver pillow-shaped Mylar balloons.

Karl Addison Murals
Look toward the sky behind the new location for Songbird Coffee & Tea or the FilmBar and you’ll see an exquisite mural featuring the face of a bearded man surrounded by a geometrical pattern rendered in purples and pinks not often spotted when making the mural rounds. It’s one of two murals painted earlier this year at Kitchen Sink Studios in Roosevelt Row, where German artist Karl Addison took inspiration from the late architect Frank Henry and renowned sculptor John Waddell. In a region filled with mural art, this is some of the finest — enhanced by its location just out of sight for those who aren’t truly looking at the everyday environment around them.

“Recorded Matter: Ceramics in Motion"
This exhibition at the Ceramics Research Center affiliated with the ASU Art Museum took viewers back to the roots of ceramics in the earth, focusing no less on process than on product while perfectly balancing traditional means of presenting visual arts with newer video technology. Videos shared narratives, ceramic technique, and more — demonstrating artists’ vastly different approaches. The exhibition elevated works of ceramic art beyond object status while revealing the mischievous thread that runs through much of contemporary ceramic art.

Manifesto Perfected 
This 2014 video by ASU MFA student Ryan Parra, currently featured in the “Summer Juried Graduate Exhibition” at the Harry Wood Gallery on the ASU Tempe campus, is titled Manifesto Perfected: A Critique of the Institutionalization of Art Through a Synthesis of Marina Abramovic’s “An Artist’s Life Manifesto.” In Parra’s video, two men sit silently side by side, alternating writing text that explores the relationship of artists to inspiration, symbols, silence, and solitude. It’s a profound meditation on art-making in its broadest sense. The exhibition continues through August 28.

“Sewing Stories”
Works by Annie Lopez are currently on view in Terminal 4, Level 2 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, as part of the current crop of exhibitions by the Phoenix Airport Museum. Lopez is a fourth-generation Phoenician whose works, including cyanotype on paper with thread dresses, reflect her own family’s history and images seen on television and in the news. Lopez earned the 2012 Phoenix Art Museum Contemporary Forum Mid-Career Artist Award, and currently has works on view at the museum as well. “Sewing Stories: Printed Artworks by Annie Lopez” continues at Sky Harbor Airport through October 11.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble