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Mikey Foster Estes with a portion of his Eye Lounge exhibit.EXPAND
Mikey Foster Estes with a portion of his Eye Lounge exhibit.
Lynn Trimble

The Best Things We Saw at December's Third Friday

The holidays are almost here, but that doesn't mean great art and culture went on break. Here are the best things we saw on the last Third Friday of 2019.

'With all my love + guts'
Eye Lounge

Myriad journeys have marked the life of Tempe-based artist Mikey Foster Estes in recent years. He moved from Arizona to New York, then back again. He earned a graduate degree in art and became part of the Eye Lounge collective, which has transitioned to a new space amid ongoing changes in Roosevelt Row. And he experienced the death of his mother, whose presence infused the gallery space where his solo exhibition opened during December Third Friday.

It’s titled after a line from one of many greeting cards that lines a white shelf placed at eye level inside the gallery. Estes made each card for his mother, using diverse materials (including an airplane barf bag) that reflect his keen interest in everyday objects as vehicles for finding and conveying meaning. But the exhibition includes additional objects, culled from various points of time and place — a piece of tape, a long-stem white rose, the image of a rock.

His exploration of the dance between presence and absence is particularly poignant in the context of his experience of loss, but also the city’s shifting landscape. Although highly conceptual in nature, the exhibit is exquisitely relevant. Thus, it affirms the ongoing significance of this creative collective, while whispering to its past, present, and future. Lynn Trimble

Gilgongo Records' 15th Anniversary Show
The Lunchbox

You know you’re at a good show when someone messing with keyboard presets in between songs gets cheerful applause.

“It was cheaper to buy a whole new keyboard from Goodwill than to bring mine on a plane,” Paul Arambula said during his Lunchbox set as he eagerly tested out the presets on his new keyboard by triggering canned bossa nova beats and other rinky-dink sounds.

Arambula is a familiar face to anyone who’s gone to their fair share of underground shows over the years. He was a ubiquitous presence on show bills, either as a solo artist or as part of bands like the Chandails and Vegetable. He wasn’t the only familiar face at the Lunchbox for Gilgongo Records' 15th Anniversary Show. The event drew a veritable who's-who of folks who are staples of the DIY house show, and experimental music scenes.

Gilgongo Records head James Fella set up a mini record store inside The Lunchbox: a long row of white boxes crammed with a treasure trove of vinyl records. Fella put together a compelling, ear-splitting bill with folks like Lana Del Rabies and John Wiese on the bill. But the highlight for me was watching Arambula playing with those presets and watching the audience cackle with delight. It’s the sort of thing you’ll never experience at an arena show: the joy of watching someone fucking around onstage and unsure about what’s going to happen, but everyone else is in the room is eager to go along with it. Ashley Naftule

Jason Hugger's work for the Modified Arts exhibit.EXPAND
Jason Hugger's work for the Modified Arts exhibit.
Jason Hugger

'The Square'
Modified Arts

As Instagram continues to infiltrate the art world, the irony of attending a gallery show with the theme of creatives being inspired by the typical shape of a post on the social site wasn't lost on me, but the work on display showed much more inspiration and depth than anything an influencer would post to their feed.

Cindy Schnackel's Birth played with perspective, showing an orange squid-like creature thrusting its spawn into the world, but a selection from Pakistani-American Safwat Saleem's "Concerned but Powerless" exhibition showed another viewpoint altogether. Landslide by Michael Afsa went outward in a different dimension, giving what appeared to be the visual representation of what happens after a snowy mountain comes crashing down.

Even within the confines of four equal sides, powerful messages can be given. You just have to look away from your phone long enough to see it.

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