Posts tagged ‘Italy’

The Desert Notebooks: Charted Territories

“Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”
Aldo Leopold

Arizona is one of the most beautiful states in the Union, a diverse range of landscapes, each more breathtaking than the next, ranging from vast and desolate plateaus to hidden canyons opening into lush, green fields, from cactus fields to piñon forests.

Arizona was an even more abundant land before the arrival of progress and massive numbers of new residents and industries built on extraction.

Native communities thrived here for centuries before Europeans arrived. The canyons of northern Arizona are littered with large numbers of prehistoric ruins — sophisticated, multi-story masonry structures built into protective cliffs and along rivers. These structures were abandoned well before the arrival in the area of the Navajo, the largest Native community in the United States, who now trace their origin stories to this land..

The former abundance is reflected in the sheer number of these ruins, a mysterious precursor of the wildly expanding low-density sprawl we have in Arizona today. Matteo Rubbi found an aerial photographic map of Apache Junction taken in 1971 that shows a view of largely undeveloped that will never be reproduced.

Visiting artists Miguel Palma and Bruno Pereira Sousa, both from Portugal, and Matteo Rubbi from Italy and I traveled north this week on behalf of the Desert Initiative. On May 14, we were hosted on a visit to the Navajo Nation and other locations in New Mexico and northern Arizona by Phoenix artist Steve Yazzie (http://www.stevenyazzie.com). Yazzie and his family grew up on the Navajo Nation, and he had an opportunity to visit his mother while we were there. Yazzie’s late grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker, and Yazzie served in the Marines before dedicating himself to his work as an artist. One of his works was recently acquired by the Phoenix Art Museum.

Our first night was spent in Gallup, New Mexico, at the historic El Rancho Hotel. Gallup was once called the “Indian Capital of the World,” and about 30 percent of the city’s population traces its roots to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni or other Native communities.

The following morning, we had a meeting with Manny Wheeler, Director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, and learned about many of the exciting exhibitions, projects and commissions he is leading there. We previewed several new temporary public art installations yet to be unveiled as part of a collaboration between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency. The commissions will be inaugurated in Sante Fe, N.M. on Friday, May 18. Desert Initiative and ARID Journal partner and ISEA2012 Artistic Director Andrea Polli and Will Wilson are among the artists commissioned. For more information, including a map and texts in both Navajo and English, visit http://www.timenm.com/

After a traditional Navajo lunch in Window Rock, we headed southwest through the Navajo Nation toward Chinle Canyon, where we saw several of the prehistoric ruins and watched horses run across the canyon floor. We spent the night and following morning in historic downtown Flagstaff, where we also met with Alan Petersen, Curator of Fine Arts for the Museum of Northern Arizona, and toured his current exhibition, Shadows on the Mesa—Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond. I highly recommend a visit. More information is available on-line at http://www.musnaz.org/exhibits/shadows/index.shtml

On the drive south back to Phoenix from Flagstaff, as the elevation dropped, the exterior temperature rose from 72 degrees to 106 degrees over a roughly 140-mile drive. We passed by the fires raging on the west side of I-17 near Sunflower, Arizona. At a certain point, smoke from the fires blocked out the afternoon sun and cast otherworldly light and shadows on the landscape.

I saw things on this short journey that I’ve never seen before and may not ever see again: Horses attempting to open the front door of house. The sun sinking through a red and black veil of smoke rising from the largely uncontained Sunflower fires raging to the south, at one point lighting up the previously invisible silhouette of the San Francisco Peaks like a volcano as it slowly sank behind the horizon. Through it all, the best moments were watching the landscape through the eyes of international guest artists and watching the creative process in action as everyone interacted and responded creatively throughout with vision, inspiration, laughter and friendship. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Yazzie, Manny Wheeler and Alan Petersen for their time and support on behalf of the Desert Initiative and ASU, and to our visiting artists Miguel Palma, Bruno Pereira Sousa and Matteo Rubbi.

GREG ESSER
Desert Initiative Director
ASU Art Museum

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Photographs by Steven Yazzie.

May 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm 1 comment

Magic Fridays, continued: Crowns!!!

Above: Visiting artist Matteo Rubbi and his crown in downtown Phoenix.

You may have seen the earlier post on this blog about “Magic Fridays” at the Museum. They are the brainchild of visiting artist-in-residence Matteo Rubbi, from Bergamo, Italy, and his girlfriend, French artist Béatrice Bailet, both of whom have shared their fine cooking and their insights with the Museum staff and lucky visitors at several congenial potlucks served in the Museum lobby.

Earlier this month, “Magic Friday” coincided Epiphany (Jan. 6), and for the occasion, Béatrice made a galette des rois, or “king cake.” This delicious confection — thin layers of pastry with a frangipane center — contained two dried beans, and the finders of those beans each received a paper crown, and became king for the day.

That evening, which was also First Friday on downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Matteo and Béatrice took the tradition to the streets, making paper crowns with passersby outside the house in which the two artists had been staying.

Béatrice wrote a blog post about the event, which is on her blog:

http://beatricebailet.over-blog.com/article-c-r-o-w-n-96645968.html

And here is our own rough translation of Beatrice’s post, which was originally in French. Merci, Béatrice!

Every First Friday of the month, the center of Phoenix is swarmed by people.

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, in the United States. It’s a city of extraordinary dimensions, with a density of 1,084 inhabitants/km2, and an overall surface area of 1334,1 km2 (Paris: 21,196 inhabitants/km2 for 105,4 km2!) It’s built in the Sonoran Desert, which allows it to expand without limits. This fact means there’s a good quality of life, with a private garden for everyone, but prevents those moments of meeting that occur in a city built on a human scale. In Phoenix, you don’t walk or borrow the rare shared mode of transportation. You have to take your car, even for short trips.

That’s why First Fridays are such a big success: In the arts neighborhood in downtown Phoenix, a kind of art market takes place in the evening, allowing the art galleries to stay open, the food trucks to gather, and musicians to play in the street.

It’s within this context that I suggested a crown-making workshop. Everybody was free to stop and make a crown with the salvaged materials we had available (paper, stickers, images, pens…)

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January 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm Leave a comment

Magic Fridays at the Museum with Matteo Rubbi

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Matteo Rubbi arrived from Italy a few weeks ago to begin his six-month residency at the ASU Art Museum, and he has already changed the way we do things here (in a very good way). Last Friday, Matteo and his girlfriend, French artist Béatrice Bailet, invited the Museum staff to eat lunch with them — mushroom risotto, quiche Lorraine, pasta Bolognese — under unusual circumstances. They called it “Magic Friday,” and there will be more of them in the future. Chris Miller, the Museum’s exhibition specialist, was moved to write about the experience:

Today the ASU Art Museum staff was treated to a delicious lunch prepared by the 2011 Furla Prize winner and visiting Artist in Residence Matteo Rubbi, and his girlfriend, Beatrice Bailet. While it’s not uncommon to find us gathered together in small groups for lunch, or the occasional birthday or going away celebration, today was a bit different. Tables were set up in the lobby and the door to the museum kitchen was open and decorated with lights, and the savory smells from within drifted out into the open spaces of the museum. Music played, laughter and conversation filled the room, and we all wore the smiles of people who were being fed. I understand there was an element of performance involved on our part, in that, while we ate in the lobby, people entering the museum would be immediately aware of our banquet. Any other time we would be doing this behind closed doors, trying to minimize the impact on the museum patrons, but today there we were enjoying a meal out in the lobby for all to see. What’s all this cooking and eating in front of everyone about?

 –Chris Miller, Exhibition Specialist

December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm 1 comment


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