100 Creatives

Lisa Sette on How a Timmy Thomas Song Inspired an Upcoming Art Exhibition

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 2. Lisa Sette.

Lisa Sette's name is all but synonymous with stellar contemporary art. The gallerist and her eponymous art space have presented world-class exhibitions in the Valley for more than three decades. 

As Sette puts it, "I don't respond to 'ma'am,' but I should."

She founded Lisa Sette Gallery on Scottsdale's Marshall Way in 1985. After 28 years there, with all their ups, downs, and in-betweens, Sette made the move to Phoenix. Now housed in a semi-subterranean Al Beadle building in midtown, the gallery represents some of Arizona's most notable artists — James Turrell, Angela Ellsworth, and Carrie Marill — but her roster includes creatives based around the world. 

Running a gallery that's anything but average means there are no average days for Sette, who says she's arrived at this point in her career by "day in and day out responding to visual art as a means of understanding the world." 

Which is precisely what she's considering while preparing for the gallery's March 2017 exhibit. 

The title is "Tell My Why, Tell Me Why, Tell Me Why, (Why Can't We Live Together?)," borrowed lyrics from a 1973 Timmy Thomas song. (Coincidentally, the song was sampled in Drake's "Hotline Bling," whose video blatantly borrowed imagery from Turrell.) Sette was listening to the song a few months back while driving. She remembers it was just prior to the recent rash of killings by police.

Over minimal instrumentation, the song is a plea for peace, a meditation on harmony just out of grasp. At first, Sette debated whether the concept might be a bit dated. But she quickly — and sadly — realized that it wasn't.

"This is how concepts for exhibits form sometimes," she says. "It resonated with me as it relates to recent and persistent political developments ... as we drift further and further apart. It's a visual protest."

I came to Phoenix with complete naivete about its politics.

I'm most productive when I've had sufficient protein.

My inspiration wall is full of photographs of my dog, family, and the usual classics in postcard form (Meret Oppenhiem's fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon, Couple in Raccoon Coats by James Van De Zee) etc., etc.

Good work should always make you unsure of what you think you already know.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more critical writing and exposure locally and nationally - there are some very high-quality exhibitions and artists to be seen here.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
23. Slawomir Wozniak
22. Elly Finzer
21. Josh Brizuela
20. Amy K. Nichols
19. Angela Johnson
18. Grant Vetter
17. Michelle and Melanie Craven
16. Erick Biez
15. Leah Marche
14. Lisa Von Hoffner
13. Amada Cruz
12. Amber Robins
11. Xandriss
10. Steven Tepper
9. Bentley Calverley
8. Lisa Olson
7. Eric Torres
6. Genevieve Rice 
5. Kathleen Trott
4. Alberto Álvaro Ríos
3. Louis Farber