Big Brain Awards

Big Brain 2012 Finalist: Lindz Lew

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2012 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 7, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Lindz Lew

As she puts it herself, Lindz Lew is no tortured artist.

"I don't thrive on pain and turmoil," she wrote last fall on her blog. "I can't make art while my head is clouded with darkness like most artists. Life has to be all bunny rabbits and rainbows for me to be productive...."

Lucky for us, Lew says she's generally a pretty happy person. She grew up "in the middle of nowhere" (a.k.a. Cave Creek) and found herself in the second half of high school at New School for the Arts, then a brand-new charter arts school in Scottsdale. After graduation, Lew went to Prague for a visit and wound up staying three years -- teaching art in a preschool and working as an interior designer. She loved it, but realized she needed a college degree to do much of anything, so found herself back in Arizona. Last May she graduated from ASU with a degree in sculpture, her chosen medium.

She gets teary talking about what a difference Modified Arts -- the downtown Phoenix gallery and music space created by Kimber Lanning -- made for her in high school and is grateful when describing Lanning's mentorship through the years.

Last year, Lew curated the show "In Your Head and Under the Bed" with Lanning and Kim Larkin, and she continues to be involved at Modified, although she now has a full-time job as an executive assistant at Bentley Gallery in Scottsdale. Her duties run the gamut from graphic design to event planning to customer development.

And she makes time for her own work. A small bedroom in the back of her Tempe house serves as a studio. It looks like Wes Anderson has been poking around back here. Lew doesn't mind the reference, though she cites her real inspiration as the work of Jim Henson and George Lucas. Labyrinth and '80s sci-fi fantasy, she says, are "still my heart of hearts."

When Henson died in 1990, she spent a week in bed. "My mother was very consoling," Lew recalls.

These days, she's finishing a series of heads, which include a deer with glowing green eyes and an altogether-too-lifelike pig. She says it's important to stay happy to keep her creepy work from becoming macabre, and indeed, looking around the studio at an owl's nest filled with human head-eggs and a small, scrappy bunny in a wheelchair, it's easy to see the fine line.

But Lew never crosses it. Her work is whimsical and thought-provoking and, yes, happy. It'll be interesting to see how she handles the tightrope walk in an upcoming project, a planned series based on an article she saw in National Geographic about giant floods in Mississippi, during which farmers built sand walls around their homes. Lew is obsessed with the images. "I kinda want to make some little floating houses," she says.

And speaking of home: In the abstract, Lew says she ultimately wants to make hers in either a big city or near the woods. But, she adds, "for the time being, I'm really happy here."

Lucky us.

Meet the finalists on April 7 during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia. And check out the other Big Brain Awards finalists we've profiled so far: 

Visual Art: 

Andrew Hadle

Jon Ashcroft

Greg Kerr

Performing Art: 
Torch Theatre

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at