Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Art of Jerome Arizona

This past weekend was our fourth wedding anniversary. My husband and I were married in Jerome Arizona 4 years ago on September 23, 2006. We honeymooned in room 1 of the infamous over-a-hundred year old Connor Hotel, which is the corner room directly above the Spirit Room bar. This weekend we celebrated 4 years of marriage by going back to Jerome. We stayed in the same room of the Connor again.

For those of you who are not familiar, a little history lesson. Jerome is one of the most famous historical ghost towns. It was founded in 1883 and was the first billion dollar copper mining camp. Copper and silver ores were mined until the last smelter shut down in 1953 and the town was deserted. In the 1960's - 1970's Jerome was named a National Historic Landmark and much of the architecture was preserved or restored. The town was brought back to life and preserved by the many bohemians and artists who repopulated the town. Today Jerome is a thriving tourist attraction and artist community.

One of the most unique things about Jerome is that it is all built into the side of Mingus Mountain on Cleopatra Hill. The main street of town winds down the hillside, stairways go up and down in between houses and structures built into the steep hillside with support beams. It is called the "mile high town" as the elevation is at 5,000 feet and overlooks Clarkdale. Notable residents are said to include Maynard James Keenan of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. I've been a fan of this music for at least half my life. Though I've been to Jerome many times, which only has a population of 400 people, I can't say that I have glimpsed him as he is a very private person and often goes out with disguises and uses a fake name. However, during this visit I did stop by the Puscifer shop and I did read an interview written by a Jerome resident about MJK's vineyards and wine that he produces in Jerome.

I am always inspired by Jerome and it's artists. It is a very liberal community, nestled in conservative Yavapai county. Some residents are old hippies, some are gallery owners and managers, many are artists. How nice it would be to live in one of these fantastic historic houses, have morning coffee on a balcony with the view of Clarkdale and Cottonwood, make some art in any of the community studios all within walking distance, and display the art in any of the community galleries. And then as the day winds down and the sun sets, relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the quiet that comes over this little community each night. My husband and I took a night time stroll through Jerome and felt safe as houses, enjoying the tinkling sounds of fountains and the luminous glow from all the sculpture gardens. I took many many pictures, which I will talk about now.

In every nook and cranny of Jerome, you can find some art done by the locals, or some nice little touch of antique restoration or decor. This drawing was actually in the bathroom of our hotel. It is a drawing of the apartment buildings of Jerome. They are now shops though on the bottom floors, and the apartments are on the top floors. There is a smoke shop called "Puffin Stuff," The Puscifer Shop, a coffee and sandwich and book store all rolled into one. All of the owners are kind and my husband and I have enjoyed sandwiches, books and coffee while being entertained by live musicians at The Marmalade Cafe. Below is a side view of the first level of the apartment buildings.

This picture is taken from the top of the stairway in The Connor Hotel that led to our room, there are paintings on display. Just around the bend from the bottom of this stairway....

Was this! It might be hard to see from this photo, but this was a very large piece of metal work, at least 6 feet tall hanging on the wall above our heads.

Another drawing that was hanging in our hotel room. This is an artist's depiction of Jerome and Cleopatra Hill.

As we started our night time stroll, the first thing that caught our eye was this. There are old antiques and preserved historic items all over Jerome. This is an old movie house projector.

Many of the shops in town have a large inventory of Dia de los Muertos art. I cannot remember the name of the shop where I snapped this picture of the art in the window. I'll have to come back and edit this blog when I find the information. Regardless, there is lots of colorful, beautiful Dia de los Muertos art around Jerome shops, especially this time of year. Edit: Thanks to Erica, who reminded me that this shop is called Magdalena's Bazaar.

Jerome tends to have themes for street decorations. One of them is sundials. There were many of these on the corners of streets, but this one was my favorite since it is a hat tip to The Bard. More on themes in a minute.

Here is a shot of the Raku Gallery from the outside. This gallery is huge and multi-leveled. This is just a picture from the street of the patio and stairs. Their website is currently under construction, but I do suggest visiting it and bookmarking it for later.

I really wish I knew what the thing with giraffes is all about, but I was only in town for one night and did not get a chance to ask any locals. However, this seems to the second theme I noticed decorating many of the gardens. I saw giraffes all over the place. Metal work giraffes, bushes sculpted into giraffes. This is just one of the many giraffes I saw, right outside of the old whorehouse which is now called "The House of Joy."

This is one of my favorite things in Jerome. It's private property and I do not know who the owner is. But it's just so fascinating to me. It seems to be some sort of garden full of odds and ends, sculptures and whimsical things. I love it. It is right next door the House of Joy.

The House of Joy is definitely beautiful and colorful to see at night, with the red lamps, an obvious sign of an old brothel. This second story window features a beautiful display of The Virgin, which is tells you two things: One, this town has a sense of ironic humor. And two, perhaps it's another hat tip display to the old Spanish settlers and missionaries of the old days of Arizona? As well as the Dia de los Muertos art.

Another view of the House of Joy patio. This Buddha statue is next to the giraffe from above. And in the lower left corner of the window is a portrait of the infamous Mae West.

There isn't anything I could say about this place that these folks couldn't say very well themselves, so here is a link to their website.

Down the road aways, is Gallery 527. This gallery features many many different artists, and next door to it, is the the sculpture garden. This sculpture garden looked so amazing at night! This guy who appears to be licking the flowers was so cool looking!

This giant, blue paper mache head looked a little scary and luminous in the night time garden lamps. I had to capture a picture of him.

I loved this lady with the heliotrope head towards the back of the garden. Also, there were metal work giraffes a little ways back.

Metal work spiders in the garden, just in time for Halloween!

Another angle of the paper mache head, the spiders, and the flower licking guy.

To end this blog, I just want to include a bunch of links to the artists and galleries for those of you interested.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Religious Vending Machine

I recently did a piece that I was at first afraid to put up for the public to see. I didn't want to alienate or offend people that I care about. But after having a chat with Amy today it was decided to post a blog about my thoughts on this piece. Most of the pieces I have done so far have been very fun to do and maybe very fun to look at. But there is a lot on my mind that I have carried with me for a long time and I've decided to start channeling these thoughts creatively. Over the past couple weeks I've dedicated myself towards dwelling on what art is really all about: communication. Communication goes both ways. What this piece means to me is personal and may be different than how you, the viewer, interpret it. My goal with this piece was not to give you a one-sided biased opinion of my own. If anything, this piece could be a mirror to some people.

Pictured below is what I consider the second installment of this piece. Religion is a very big world wide thing and a very personal thing at the same time. Your thoughts and opinions on this piece are your own, not mine, and they were wide and varied, so I would consider this painting a success in meeting it's objective. I know that some people didn't like it or didn't get it, and that's ok. This was not a poster telling you what I think you should think.

My inspiration for this painting came from someone making a comment that reminded me of one of my favorite sayings which goes "If you think religion (or life or faith) is a vending machine in which you insert virtue and receive happiness, you're going to be very disappointed." So that's really where it all starts. This painting represents, to me, the way I think many people think religion works. I think that many people have a leftover conditioning from childhood where they expect that they are going to get what they want, and fail to understand situations where they don't. (Not that I'm saying you should be happy when things don't go your way, but it might explain why we are such a law-suit happy nation.) So I tried to paint all the things I thought represented happiness, success and status coming out the vending machine. I also liked the idea of it being treasure, like a pirate's loot. And that's really what it's all about to me. The rest of this is just little thoughts I had about the individual details, but not the meaning of the painting, which is open to interpretation.

It's also my opinion that religion, like everything else, has become very commercialized. That is why there is a copy of Twilight in the chalice, and also the "Everyday Low Price" Wal-Mart smiley face resting in the gold. Because Wal-Mart is a corporation that claims to be a "family business servicing families." Which is why some Wal-Marts in different regions of the country have (for example) entire DVD sections that carry nothing but religious movies, depending on what region you are in. The corporation upholds the image that "good god-fearing families raising children will shop here and they will get the best deals (because we import from China and don't pay those same family raising people squat.)"

I painted the pill bottles because it always tends to bother me when people don't give credit to medical science and instead credit a health recovery to religion. Playing devil's advocate, wouldn't you also want to thank God that you live in a country where healthcare is available, that you went to a clean hospital with specially trained doctors who are gifted with brilliance in surgery and were able to attend medical school for over 12 years? There is countless people who are very smart and very educated who developed your medications in labs, performed your surgery, changed your bandages, drew your blood, and the list goes on. This doesn't cut God out of the equation, but it's just something that bugs me.

Maybe because of the picture size, it's hard for people to see that the vending machine says "Insert virtue" but I think that kind of ties the whole meaning of the painting together. Again, it comes down to people trying to get what they want, and when they are denied, the confusion comes from rationalizing that they did the "right thing" so they "deserve it" or they should have it, the idea of "But I am a good person, so this is not fair." This isn't exclusive to religion, the same thing occurs in customer service "I'm paying good money, so give me what I want." Which is another reason why I painted gold and money and made the virtue the currency of the vending machine. Also, there is a puppy.

I think the wedding cake threw people off, and most of you probably thought I was making a statement about marriage, or my marriage. If I was going to paint an image displaying my thoughts about marriage, specifically my marriage, it would not look like so much of a fantasy or look so pretty. I'm not saying it would necessarily be ugly, I guess it would be a lot more "real" is what I'm saying. The wedding cake is simply another way for me to represent how I think religious "moral values" have become commercialized through the bridal industry. First note that the wedding cake is obviously for a heterosexual couple. Second, the table and the gifts. It's not necessarily saying that marriage will come from the vending machine, but a heterosexual "perfect wedding" might. If it represents marriage at all, it is simply saying that heterosexual marriage seems to be a status of virtue and success in our culture.

The yacht, or "saleboat" represents two things. On the one hand, it represents wealth and status. Having a boat is a status symbol in our culture. On the other hand, it represents Christ. The life preserver is often used as a metaphor for God or Christ, the anchor on it represents being secure. Christ was often traveling on boats with his buddies in the bible as the apostles were fishermen.

So those are my own thoughts that I was having as I did this painting, but it's really open to interpretation. In some ways it looks like a sarcastic dig at religion, but on the other hand, the painting is very colorful and cheerful and almost looks like an endorsement.

Anyway, I thank you for all your comments and support and I hope to do more paintings like this in the future.

Thanks for reading,