Big Brain Awards 2014: Meet the Finalists and Our First Urban Legend Winners

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She left her spot as an Eye Lounge member recently. Now Bowers is looking to challenge herself and step out of her comfort zone. She says she would like to show her work at Modified Arts, Willo North, or the new Step Gallery in downtown Phoenix. Fans of Bowers' work can expect experimentation with geometric patterns and color to accompany her new pieces.

While Phoenix's art scene isn't as established as other large cities, Bowers says the Valley holds unparalleled opportunity for emerging artists in many other ways. She says that artists here have the chance to do something new, create communities, and even stumble without it ruining their careers.

"There's so much potential for growth in Arizona," she says. "You really have the opportunity to do new things and stand out." — Heather Hoch

El Peezo | Visual Art
For a guy who craves anonymity, El Peezo certainly is on a lot of street corners.

And walls of abandoned buildings, as well as occupied ones. And in parking lots and alongside bustling restaurants.

Since first surfacing on the street art scene by appearing on the concrete of downtown Phoenix, El Peezo has brought an increasingly popular and accessible form of public art to the Valley: wheatpaste.

The urban art form was first used by guerrilla artists and protesters to adhere posters and flyers and has since been reappropriated by artists like Nether and Banksy. The mixture, which consists of simply wheat flour or starch and water, doesn't permanently deface anything but also struggles to withstand the elements — which is why many of El Peezo's paste people are missing half a head or have shredded feet.

He seems to emulate Banksy in more than just his chosen medium. Throughout Banksy's career, the hyper-popular and now commercial, yet still controversial, artist has chosen to remain anonymous — which, of course, has only made him infamous. Phoenix's El Peezo, it would seem, hopes for a similar approach, explicitly and repeatedly declining to be interviewed by anyone.

"I began my work as El Peezo in hopes of bringing fun and lightheartedness to my life and my environment through satirical street art," he writes in an e-mail to New Times.

"The content and placement of my work is done exclusively without permission. To preserve the essence of El Peezo, I choose to remain anonymous in the Phoenix art scene. Continuing to maintain complete anonymity is of utmost importance."

Because his work depicts popular characters, like E.T. and Alf, with whom the public already has relationships, people tend to seek them out. It's not uncommon to see a driver pause for a photograph, while Instagram searches unearth an array of portraits posed with a piece.

When shared on social media, either on his account, www.instagram.com/elpeezo, or others, his work becomes like a real-life Where's Waldo? book. (El Peezo actually created a Waldo wheatpaste last year. It has since disappeared.) Many are hidden off side streets deep downtown, and everyone wants to know where, though they tend to tear and tatter or are painted over before long.

Arguably his most noted pieces, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas and a scene from Where the Wild Things Are, are also his most publicly accessible. The former adorns the western wall of Phoenix Public Market Café, while the latter can be seen directly from Seventh Street, since the major commuter artery passes by Palabra hair and art collective, which plays host to the piece and of which he is a member.

Palabra's owner, Jorge Torres, learned of El Peezo when he saw the artist's work on his building. El Peezo has since joined the collective, but Torres has never met him — they communicate via e-mail.

"[His work] is cool," Torres says. "It's widespread and open to all demographics. The fact that he's branched out and accessible to everyone, that's pretty legit." — Janessa Hilliard

Becky Nahom | Visual Art
Becky Nahom puts people first. The 23-year-old curator who co-founded Halt Gallery last fall spends her time creating shows that encourage connections between visitors and artists in hopes of bolstering the art community and bridging the divide between high art and the public at large.

"It would break my heart to see people walk into a gallery and then turn around and walk away because they felt that they didn't belong there," she says.

Though Halt Gallery (www.haltgallery.com) is a relatively new undertaking, Nahom has held a variety of art-related positions in the past; she has either interned or worked (or interned and worked) at nearly all the major art institutions in metro Phoenix. Currently, Nahom is both a gallery attendant and an assistant preparator at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. She is also an events and exhibitions assistant at Scottsdale Public Art.

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