Arizona Byways

Internet sites like MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps help us blaze the most expedient trails through the desert, getting us quickly to where we need to be next. But if we were to dawdle, if we were to wander down dusty trails and cluttered pathways, we might see what Tom Kiefer sees: the desert before urban sprawl began gobbling it up; the many textures of its arid, sun-baked canvas.

In his "Journey West: Tucson to Ajo, Photographs by Tom Kiefer" exhibit -- a showing of the photographer's black-and-white prints -- Kiefer asks us to consider these images as we wait to board planes that will get us where we’re going without any scenery at all.

There’s loneliness in each of Kiefer’s photos, all of them taken with a medium-format camera during his frequent pilgrimages into the desert. In Black Mountain Cloud Poof, Kiefer shows us a sky clotted with cumulus above a darkly mountained terrain. In Bouquet of Ocotillo, spiny tendrils reach toward a blackened desert sky. Sunflower Husks, Ajo, Arizona depicts the harsh, dry realities of summer heat with a tight shot of withered petals on a desert floor.

“There is something about driving the main road and exploring the side ones that quiets the mind,” Kiefer writes in his artist statement for the show, “a journey into a certain rhythm and beauty that can be so subtle as to not exist. Some find it easily, others rush through because it’s ‘in-between.’”

The show is open for viewing 24 hours a day.

July 3-Jan. 7, 2007
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela