There are a number of snarky depictions of our beloved Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the "Phoenix as Wonderland: Art from New Times' Best of Phoenix 2009" exhibit - what else would you expect from a Valley-wide call to Phoenix-based artists? - including Luis Gutierrez's Sheriff Joe, Patron Saint of Clowns. The piece makes ol' Joe into a saint.
It's true, admits Gutierrez, that his work is poking fun at "America's Toughest Sheriff," but it's also a commentary on the artist's heritage. "My wonderland is a place where you can walk along with the saints so my piece is a play on Mexicans who make ordinary people saints. I used an obvious twisted sense of humor to make Sheriff Joe the saint," he says.
But here's a twist: Gutierrez says that the artwork isn't just to trash the dude. To prove his point, the Phoenix-based artist will be selling votive candles for $5 each during the First and Third Friday receptions. The keepsakes will not only include the painting's likeness, but also a prayer on the back. "I believe in the power of prayer. I ask that people at the exhibit take a minute and pray for the sheriff that he will one day be about justice, truth, and equality," says Gutierrez, who adds that he's already received an order for a candle from somebody in New Mexico. "I guess people want a piece of this clown sheriff," he says.
Say a little prayer for Sheriff Joe during the "Phoenix as Wonderland: Art from New Times' Best of Phoenix 2009" when it opens with a free First Friday reception on Friday, October 2, at [merz]project, 1437 North First Street. For more information, call 602-229-8478 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.