Page 4 of 4

In downtown Phoenix, a diverse group of serious artists toils away in the Jackson Street studios, Faux Cafe and other warehouse hubs. They are both emerging artists and established ones, such as sculptor Otto Rigan, whose sensuous works in glass and stone sell well but have never been represented locally. They are artists unfettered by any concern with the "Southwestern style," who often work day jobs, who have hung on in Phoenix despite a dearth of galleries and a community that doesn't support them.

"When a scene grows around a financially unsupportive environment, that is actually a much stronger signal," says Rigan. "It really does seem like something is beginning to happen." That "something," although ill-defined, is tangible enough that Rigan and his wife Mayme, also an artist, have noticed recently that they've settled into Phoenix, where before they were always casting around in their minds for a more inspiring art community to move to.

In a strange way, Rigan thinks that Horwitch's death, and the "end of the era" of Southwestern art it represents, may allow a new visibility for downtown Phoenix artists. "I really don't think Scottsdale is the center of art in the Valley anymore," says Rigan. "I would hate to see Elaine's passing as any kind of opportunity, but I do think it's a pivotal point. That is not to say, `Thank God she's out of the way.' It's just to say that a cornerstone is missing, and that cornerstone was pretty effective in terms of defining how things looked.

"Now the new players are beginning to fall into place. That doesn't mean the party is going to be a good one."

It seems a good time to mention, again, that Elaine Horwitch's parties always were good ones.

"Even if Elaine hadn't passed away, there were definitely big changes coming in the Scottsdale art scene."

Elaine Horwitch made "contemporary" a palatable word among collectors whose previous tastes in art had run to paintings of horses.

"Elaine said, `Who's stealing? I'll stop him!' And she goes up to him with her gun drawn. She says, `You're under arrest.'"

"People assumed that all the art being shown in the area was kitsch-oriented, and didn't take Scottsdale seriously."

One client refused to buy a painting for $40,000 because he thought he could purchase the same artist at auction for $80,000.

"I don't think there are galleries to take up the slack. I think there is not another gallery that has her taste or style.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Deborah Laake