Maybe it’s the desert.
Or perhaps the community.
For whatever reason, the Tucson area is heavy with visual artists.
And over the next four weekends, artists in and around the city will throw open their doors and invite you in to browse, study, ask questions, and maybe even to buy.
For nearly 30 years, the Open Studio tour had been an undertaking of the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona (formerly Tucson Pima Arts Council). It had been held on one weekend, but has grown into a massive project with too many artists to contain to two days.
Last year, some of the artists started organizing neighborhood tours. This year the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance is working with the artists to organize a series of studio tours. SAACA’s marketing expertise and grant money provide by the Arts Foundation will help get the word out. The studio tours are spread over four weekends, each devoted to a specific geographic area. That means we get to see more art without racing from one end of town to the other in one weekend.
Meet some of the artists who are waiting to meet you.
Gary LaCroix has plans to show the first two weekends of the Open Studio Tour, the first at his home studio (402 E. Burrows Place), the second with the Tucson Pastel Society (2447 N. Los Altos Ave.). His works scream color and are rich with shapes. “I do a lot of meditation and sometimes I see images,” says LaCroix. Other times, he just picks up a pencil and begins to draw. This oil on canvas, “Near Death Experience,” is from his latest series, which highlights knots.
Susan J. Wischmann shares BlueSkies Studio with three other artists (101 W. River Road); it will be open on the first weekend of the tour. The one-time school librarian and art teacher’s paintings evoke the whimsical animal images that pop up in children’s books. Pieces like this acrylic painting, “Rodger-Dodger the Coyote from Arizona,” are packed with a sort of joy that runs off the page.
Wil Taylor pulls images for his paintings and prints from the Southwest, often allowing the viewer a new perspective on our land and the myths around us. The one-time middle school art teacher was trained as an illustrator, and you can see that discipline in his work. You can also see an imagination that gives a twist to his subjects, such as this gesso on print, “Raptor Rapture,” which gives this sense of soaring with a key to unlock mysteries. He will show his work at the Gilded Cage Gallery (3473 N. Nandina Lane) the second weekend of the tour.
Sally Krommes is a painter who recently took up photography. It was the saguaro cacti that pulled her in that direction. Out in the desert not too long ago, she took a good look at a saguaro. “As I got closer I saw the way cactus had grown, had survived the sun, and the amazing textures and surfaces that are there,” she says. “Usually, we see this as a western symbol but I was drawn to it as more of an abstract work.” Her studio (2416 E. Mabel St.) will be open the second weekend of the tour.
Tina LeMarque has been painting since she was a young girl. “I paint from what I call an inner landscape,” says LeMarque, who is also a psychotherapist. “My primary thing is I come out with very large and very bright-colored canvases.” As an example: The piece here, “Pink Path to the Sun,” is an oil on a 5- by 7-foot canvas. She opens her studio (5612 N. Mina Vista) on the third weekend.
At the core of each of Noreen K. Dziat’s pieces is the gourd. But you’d never know it: she transforms them into works that speak of the Southwest. Some are functional, such as keepsake boxes, and some long to be hung, such as her masks, and this piece, “Lion in the Cholla.” Her studio (4802 W. Paseo de las Colinas) is open on the first weekend of the studio tour.
Chandika Tazouz draws and paints indigenous people from around the world. Her portraits reflect her global travels, and her intent is to capture the “respect, grace and dignity” of her subjects. She often lives with and learns from those in a community before she begins to draw. Her oil, “Amor de Madre’” is among the pieces that will be at her studio (4500 W. Speedway, No. 5) on the first weekend of the tour.
Leanne C. Miller turns to the natural world for the inspiration for her abstract paintings. Her acrylic on paper here, “Movement of Water,” evokes the fury and beauty of a Tucson monsoon — it isn’t hard to imagine the calm right behind that wall of water. Her studio (826 N. Venice Ave.) will be open on the second weekend of the tour.
Ron Nelson has participated in Open Studio tours since they started almost 30 years ago. He’ll be open the fourth weekend (524 N. Ferro Ave.), and has whipped up some ceramic cups — with thumbs for handles — for the occasion. Nelson is the ultimate recycler: He makes the paper he paints on, using old newspapers mixed with leftover house paint. The cast paper is the most time consuming process in creating his art. “It takes about three months to make a casting of paper,” he says. “It’s built up like plywood.” When the paper is ready, he paints. This piece, “”Prickly Pear with Butterfly,” is acrylic on top of his paper.