Visual Arts

Martha + Mary Throws a Fund-Raising Street Party for ASU Art Museum’s “Open for Business” Exhibit

Hot dogs, cold beer, hot tunes, and cool art — I can't think of a better way to drift through a mellow April afternoon than eating grilled pups, chewing the fat with artists and raising money for a future exhibition already in the works at ASU Art Museum. Martha + Mary, a group formed by artist/real estate developer Sloane McFarland that's dedicated to resuscitating old Phoenix buildings in über-slick ways, went proactive in these economically sucky times and threw a fund-raising street party to underwrite ASUAM's proposed "Open for Business" exhibit a couple of Saturdays ago, complete with live music and family-friendly activities.

Usually, we don't devote ink in this space to reviewing a show you can't see, but the exhibition that accompanied the street party was so special I wanted to memorialize it. You can see some images in a slideshow at

The one-day-only (actually, a four-hour-only) exhibition featured a sampling of local artists who've been supportive of the museum in any number of ways. While the shelf life of the show was ridiculously short, the work in it was long on quality, beginning with Carrie Marill's future site of how it used to be, a rather prescient phrase the artist wrapped around the top of a building next to Lux coffeebar that used to house a boutique called Passage.

Inside, the empty space was transformed into an open gallery. To the right hung four colored-pencil drawings by Saskia Jorda, a performance artist who often deals with the theme of systems of mind control (Jorda's past performances include a six-hour effort in which she washed an animal brain until it literally disintegrated). To the left, The Week in Review, a net-like sculpture crafted by Peter Bugg out of linked strips cut from tabloid magazines, draped elegantly from the ceiling — a testament to Western society's continuing obsession with celebrity.

Jon Haddock covered the back wall with Martha + Mary, a painting in black depicting two young women (wearing Princess Leia-esque braids) first immortalized by early-20th-century German portrait photographer August Sander. The painting references McFarland's ongoing project, as well as the Biblical figures of Martha, a briskly efficient housewife, and Mary, her more mentally inclined sister.

Sue Chenoweth converted an existing mirrored dressing room into Mr. Smarty Pants and the Altermodern Void, a map-like, reflected sprawl executed in colored Wikki Stix depicting Phoenix and environs. Gregory Sale took over another wall for Looking to hire a glovemaker 602.405.0782 (1994, 2009). Sale had sculpted the two enormous, carved-wood hands appearing in the piece in 1994. His current title invites collaboration from someone equipped to make giant gloves for Sale's mighty mitts. Adjacent to Sale's work is Balls!, a plastic ball pit created for adults (who seemed to overtly steer away from it, unlike the uninhibited kids who quickly jumped in without pause) by recent MFA graduate Marco Rosichelli. Across the room, Melissa McGurgan's crank that: a music box mash-up featured music-box innards displayed on tiny wall shelves that emitted strange, tinny sounds distorted and amplified by the artist when wound up by viewers.

Public Service Announcement, a video projection by Matthew Moore, filled a back room. Shot over a three-month period, this lovely time-lapse video of the development of a head of lettuce not only captures the beauty of growth, it is a reminder of where our food comes from and what it takes to create it. An adjacent closet-like space held a borderline creepy installation by Steve Yazzie dedicated to the plotting and organization of a heist of a Jon Haddock piece from curator John Spiak's home.

Perhaps the street party exhibition's most memorable work was Postcommodity's Dead River, a mixed-media installation spawned by Kade Twist, Steve Yazzie and Annabel Wong, in collaboration with Native American heavy metal band, Existence AD, after the artists read the slurpy text of The Circle of Life, posted at Steele Indian School Park. The text, obviously written by a non-Native American, purports to express the thoughts of an ancient Indian spirit. Finding the text fairly offensive, the three artists set the words to music, then advertised on Craigslist for a Native American band to record the song. Existence AD ended up recording it and appearing in a full-on music video shot at MonOrchid and projected on a wall in an exclusive space cordoned off by velvet ropes at the exhibit. In a clever twist of reverse racism, this VIP space was open to Native Americans only.

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Kathleen Vanesian