Renwick Gallery visit – Summer 2018


James Renwick Alliance




By Geraldine Ostrove

Twenty three JRA members and friends spent three packed days of visits to the art and craft community of the Tucson region. The trip was expertly planned and led by fiber and mixed media artist, Claire Campbell Park. Remarkably, in this brief time we visited four collections, seven home studios, five galleries, five museums, and seven notable restaurants.

The collectors’ homes displayed spectacular art and stunning architecture. Farah and John Palmer have a significant glass collection that includes works by Lino Tagliapietra, Dale Chihuly, Dan Dailey and Dante Marioni, among many other works by Seattle and Tucson artists. The spacious grounds of their contemporary home have been brilliantly landscaped by Farah. Seymour and Marcia Sabesin, supporters especially of local and regional artists, display their collection inside and outside a 1985 home designed by Judith Chafee, a pioneer of contemporary modern architecture. Sheryl and Bob Greenberg’s striking, minimalist, white home was awarded the Home of the Year 2016 by the American Institute of Architects, Southern Arizona. Their art is displayed with comparable restraint. Having lived in Tucson for 30 years, Dan Leach described himself as a “home-grown” collector. He lives in a 1937 house and owns a collection of objects numbering in the thousands.
Artists welcomed the JRA group to their homes and studios. Claire Campbell Park’s fiber and mixed media work was displayed in her home as well as at the Davis Dominguez Gallery. We saw examples of her earlier series and her current series, rectangular hangings of luminous linen, whose multi-hued palettes are influenced by Josef Albers’ color theory.
At the art-filled home and studios of Betty and Joe Harris, Betty spoke to us about her metalwork, elegant design, and her jewelry, often set with semi-precious stones. Joe, a native of Arizona and collector of local artifacts, makes a variety of metal objects. The couple also creates collaborative works.
Rancho Linda Vista began in 1910 as a cattle ranch and has been an arts community outside Tucson since 1969. Among the residents who welcomed the JRA group was Joy Fox, who makes abstractly figurative ceramic sculptures, serene, timeless and sometimes playful. She and Albert Kogel create whimsical collaborative works in wood and clay. We also visited the studio of Judith Stewart, who sculpts the female form in clay or bronze.

Another home and studio was that of Eleanor Moty and Michael Croft. She is a metalsmith, jeweler and pioneer in the application of electroplating and photo-etching, a “founding mother” of American studio jewelry. Her exquisite works now consist entirely of one-of-a-kind brooches, only six to eight in a year. Michael, a knife maker who began metalsmithing as a jeweler, developed a passion for toy automata after his retirement from academia. The objects he collects, as well as makes, delighted his JRA visitors.
Su and Ned Egan divide their time between Tucson and Oregon. Su is a weaver who employs Scandinavian techniques, and Ned a sculptor who fashions scrap metal into fantastical and humorous pieces. We also met Carrie Seid, whose serene work uses color and light as structural components in metal box frames covered with translucent fiber netting or plexiglass.

At the Tucson Museum of Art, officials introduced us to newly built galleries showing the exhibits Dress Matters: Clothing as Metaphor and Mid- Century Perspectives, a show of architecture and furnishings. We viewed exhibits at the Arizona State Museum, a major archaeological repository of artifacts and documents representing the pre-history and history of Arizona and the Southwest, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, where the well-known Native American basket maker Terrol Dew Johnson took time from the workshop he was conducting to give us an illustrated lecture. A highlight was the cultural museum, botanical garden, and nature preserve, Tohono Chul, which means “desert corner” in the Tohono O’odham language. Featured artist, Janet Windsor, introduced us to her nature-inspired, light-filled quilts. Pima Community College houses the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery in its Center for the Arts complex, which exhibits a wide range of contemporary artists and media, including paper artist and maker Helen Baribeau, who introduced us to her work.

Galleries continue to provide an important component of Tucson’s craft and art life. Tom Philabaum, a clay and glass artist, opened his glass gallery in 1982. In its annual High Fiber exhibit, the Conrad Wilde Gallery exhibited impressive works by Jodi Colella, Monica Durazo, and Eun-Kyung Suh, among others. The Etherton Gallery, specializing in 19th and 20th century photographs, shows regional artists working in other media as well, such as the current exhibit of white, sculptural works of paper artist Rhod Lauffer. Among the artists represented by the Davis Dominguez Gallery for contemporary art were several whom the JRA group met during this trip. The distinctive Yun Gee Park Gallery for selected contemporary media seeks to appeal to all five senses of visitors to its rooms and gardens.

JRA visitors experienced the impressive richness and variety of the artistic life of Tucson and the surrounding region during this extraordinary trip.