Phoenix's independent source of
local news and culture
I was reading a piece about my Mormon heritage at a writing workshop when the instructor, Tania Katan, got incredibly animated and said, "Oh, my God, you've got to meet my partner Angela." It was one of those quick "No way!" moments when I mentioned that I was a descendant of William Jordan Flake, and then she said Angela is a descendant of the Snow family.
A little Arizona history here — the northern Arizona town of Snowflake was named after William Jordan Flake, pioneer and colonizer and visiting Mormon apostle Erastus Snow. The two combined their names to get "Snowflake."
Could it be? It was an energizing moment, like shouting, "Wonder Twin powers activate!" Then, Tania pulled a sheet away to reveal one of Ellsworths's Seer Bonnets. The Seer Bonnets are bonnets made from traditional pioneer patterns that have been completely covered in long pearl corsage pins. We're talking thousands — as in, 14,000-plus — of corsage pins, with which she painstakingly covered the entire surface of the fabric. The pearl ends on the outside, all the sharp tips pointing inward into the interiors of the bonnets. Seeing it was — to use a Mormon phrase — a revelation. It took my breath away.
Angela Ellsworth is an interdisciplinary artist whose art practice includes performance, drawing, and object making. Her work has been known to draw heavily on her Mormon roots, whether it be pushing a handcart on a walk from Phoenix to Mesa or a performance piece featuring imagined sister wives.
To me, having grown up in a small town, art — specifically, female art — very often meant "craft." I grew up in a family whose female members were masterful at crochet, quilting, baking, making Christmas ornaments, etc. What was immediately recognizable in Angela's work was a nod to these traditions while simultaneously taking them to extremes.
As it turns out, Angela is a descendant not of Erastus Snow of Snowflake, but from 5th Prophet Lorenzo Snow. So we're not wonder twins. But, still, her creativity and, more specifically, her willingness to peel the lid back and take a look at the matrilineal lines running within and throughout a patriarchal faith make her a hero(ine) to me. — Sativa Peterson
New Times contributor Sativa Peterson, who talks about her own Mormon roots, among other things, on her blog, www.sativapeterson.com, interviewed Angela Ellsworth on August 18 at Ellsworth's Phoenix studio.
I live in Phoenix because I love the horizon line. So I'm here for the horizon line and the landscape and sky . . . so much of my work is really about being here so right now it feels completely interconnected, my research, my art practice, my teaching.
When I was a kid I wanted to dress every day in a different theme. So, I did, actually. Like, one day, I'd go to school as a sailor or like a Swiss alpine hiker wearing lederhosen and with a rope around my shoulder, and then maybe a fortuneteller another day.
Phoenix could use more unexpected pioneers. Sort of pioneers of the everyday — or people who are navigating and maybe changing social space on an everyday level. Not people in power necessarily, but people one wouldn't expect to be a pioneer I think.
Phoenix could use fewer laws that restrict civil rights.
I have the superpower of smell. I can smell . . . things. Special particular things. Like when I walk into someone's home and there's a dirty dishrag somewhere I can sniff out where that is, and sometimes it's not even in the kitchen. I'm just saying . . . I'm not just going to the kitchen, I can find that dishrag.
The superpower I would want is to have my hearing do the same thing so that I could hear through multiple walls and I could listen to the ground and hear to the center of the Earth, and that I could hear through multiple different kinds of materials, you know like listen through a mountain. I'd really like that, but not in a noisy way. I'm really sensitive to sound, that's why I think I'm almost onto having this super power — so just fine-tuning. There's some tuning going on that pretty soon I'm going to be able to hear a cloud.
My hero is my great great aunt, Eliza R. Snow . . . [She was] one of the first plural wives of Joseph Smith, which gives her a certain amount of clout, but she never had children (because apparently she was pushed down the steps by the first wife, Emma Smith, when she was pregnant and miscarried and then she never had kids again). And she was called the poetess of the Mormon faith. And so she's a heroine for me because she found a way to, through creativity, kind of tap in to who she [was] within that larger community and maybe transcending it.
I remember the first time I recorded with Bob Hoag. I was 23 and had been playing in bands for quite some time — long enough to know the score, anyway. Back then, Bob's studio was in a dingy industrial park next to what was probably a chop shop and the creepiest Circle K in the East Valley. The only other company in the studio besides Bob were the three stray cats he had taken in. They all had funny names like "The Fuzz Jr." and the "Shy One," and Bob always made sure to leave food for them before he left. The first time I saw all this, I remember thinking, "There is no way great records are made here."
Bob proved me wrong.
My band The Loveblisters spent two weeks at Mesa's Flying Blanket recording what would be our first EP. We didn't have a drummer back then, so Bob filled in. It didn't take long for us to realize that we weren't the great band that we thought we were.
At least not yet.
Anytime one of us missed a note or slipped off the beat — even the slightest — Bob would start us over, and if one of us wasn't cutting it while recording a track, Bob would put them on mute and turn to those of us in the room and say, "If he doesn't get it in the next three takes, I'm going to go in there and do it. I mean, you're paying me by the hour."
Bob wasn't just recording us, and what he was doing went well beyond "producing" us. He was whipping us into shape. We took Bob's mentorship, along with the masters, away from that session and found ourselves tighter and more polished than we ever thought possible. And the EP sounded stellar. So good, in fact, that New Times called it the best local pop record of the year.
Bob has done what he did with my band countless times with countless other bands. His résumé reads like a who's who of heavies from the Phoenix music scene over the past 10 years. From The Format and Dear and the Headlights to local favorites like What Laura and Black Carl, Bob has consistently taken scrappy, young, ambitious bands and polished them up while making huge-sounding records. In fact, many of the artists Bob has recorded have transcended local popularity and become prominent regional and national acts, bringing long overdue attention to the creative community that calls Phoenix home. — Lou Kummerer
New Times contributor and longtime Valley musician Lou Kummerer knows a thing or two about talent. He interviewed Bob Hoag on August 16 at Flying Blanket studio in Mesa.
I live in Phoenix because I absolutely detest the rain.
When I was a kid, I wanted to make movies. That was the only thing I wanted to do, and it's actually crazy that my whole life has ended up revolving around music.
While I'm driving, I tend to like to get to the speed limit as fast as humanly possible, and I like to try to take advantage of any open space on the road.
My favorite word is "piffy."
My least favorite word is "fetid."
My favorite sound is my wife's laugh. My kids' laughter is creeping up on that, but for now, it's still my wife.
The sound that I hate is motorcycles.
My favorite swear word is wookiefucker. (But I would like to be able to show this to my parents, so maybe skip that.)
My hero is my grandpa — my dad's dad. He's had a really awesome life and it seems like he's done everything really well. He has a pretty big family and he's been married to the same woman his whole life. He hung out with Joe DiMaggio in bars in Atlantic City and bought Frank Sinatra a drink once at the 500 Club in Atlantic City — so, of course he's my hero because of that. He's a man of integrity and honesty, but in a really simple and humble way. He's just everything I could ever want to be as a person. He's a solid dude.
Right before I go to bed, I almost always eat a bowl of ice cream and try to watch a half-hour to an hour of television.
My old friend Sam has a favorite quote: "If you're not the hero of your own story, then you're in the wrong story."
If that doesn't make you reevaluate your life's choices, try spending a half-hour with Sam.
Sam — just Sam; no last name — is a beautiful woman. Petite and slim with rich brunette hair, I've rarely seen her wear a stitch of makeup. She's constantly moving and animates conversations by swaying her arms, curling her fingers, or leaning in to squeeze your arm.
She's got a lot to say, so it's lucky she's so good at expressing herself.
She runs Detour Company, a theater troupe for adults with developmental and other challenges. With a passion for movement, Sam loves dance and theater and became obsessed with American Sign Language, a language she says is "like speaking Italian with your hands." Sam worked at the Phoenix School for the Deaf for many years and still uses American Sign Language to interpret at Gammage Auditorium. She has two children whom she raised as a single mother. Her daughter Becky, 31, shares her mother's love of the stage and has been a dancer her entire life. Her son Christopher, 33, is also a performer and, in many ways, has inspired Sam's life work.
Christopher suffered extensive brain damage at birth. When Sam found out, Christopher was just 2 years old. She was alone in a room with six specialists who told her he should be institutionalized.
The doctors said he would never be able to communicate. The doctors said he would never catch a ball with two hands. And they said she'd never be able to take him to a restaurant better than McDonald's.
"I choose not to believe those limitations," was her response to the experts. Then she walked out of the room.
Yep, she's awesome.
Today, Christopher is one of the actors with Detour. He communicates verbally, can catch a ball with two hands, frequents restaurants that serve more than fast food, and regularly draws standing ovations at Detour's performances.
I've known Sam all my life. Somehow, even with her insane schedule of raising kids and working, Sam found time to make friends. My mother was one of them. They were single moms together and I know they kept one another sane.
Her résumé aside, the woman is warm, loving, and over-the-top gushy — but she's not afraid to play hardball when she has to. She's my hero. — Lilia Menconi
New Times assistant Night & Day editor Lilia Menconi believes in two things: the arts and helping others. She interviewed Sam on August 18 at Sam's home in Phoenix.
I live in Phoenix because this is where I landed.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a ballerina.
While I'm driving, I talk to my daughter.
Phoenix could use more opportunities for adults with disabilities and other challenges.
Phoenix could use less egocentric thinking that they have the answer. We need to open our hearts just a tad more.
My favorite part of my work is I tell people that a play is called a play because it's play.
I'm surprised when there's enough time to do everything I want in a day.
If I were a character in a play, I would be a character from a revue and I would have to be a whole bunch of characters. If I could be a person that I saw on stage that I most admired — that one I could tell you in a second — I would be Maya Angelou. She's the most gracious person I ever saw take to the stage.
My favorite word is yes.
My least favorite word is no . . . and that gets me into trouble.
My heroes are my son and my daughter because they gave me roots and wings. Christopher keeps me attached to this earth and my daughter encourages me to fly.
Right before I go to bed, I always say my prayers.