Archive for Art Rants

Blast from the Past

beer04This is an old one from the archives. Atlantic City Beer Festival, 2007 I think. It was near the end of Inferno Newspaper‘s seven-year run.

I showed my press credentials at the door, and Liz and I got in for free. And we got VIP treatment at the booths, with a lot of freebies.

Inferno started life as an underground arts newspaper, and evolved into a politcal/current events publication that raised eyebrows and ire.

I have toyed with the idea of starting a newspaper like Inferno in Apache Junction. The concept for the masthead is OUTSIDER. Distribution, and ad sales are the two main hitches in my plan. I don’t have the energy to be a sales person in addition to being artistic director and editor in chief. Not to mention, layout and graphics…

There are not too many things I miss about New Jersey, but the one thing I do miss is the sense of community that my artist and creative friends shared. Inferno was a project that was created out of a desire to share, and everyone contributed out of generosity, not out of greed.  Nobody got paid, and I laid out more money from my wallet than I ever got in return.  In the few years that I did end up in the black, I never did earn a return that was even close to minimum wage. I devoted at least 40 hours a week to the rag, and my best year rewarded me with $2,000, plus or minus…

So I have to wonder why I would even entertain the notion of doing it again.

Phoenix Art Museum

“Art is a response to life. To be an artist is to undertake a risky way to live, to adopt one of the greatest forms of liberty, to make no compromise. Painting is a form of love, of transmitting the years in art.” ~ Antonio Berni

Liz and I spent the afternoon at the Phoenix Art Museum. Our main attraction was the featured exhibition of Argentinian artist, Antonio Berni. We knew little about him going in, except that he worked with found objects and created some amazing sculpture. He was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, although virtually unknown in the United States. Read more

Writer’s Block

captains2Or rather, Painter’s Block…

I have not been in the studio in eight months.  In the beginning of the year, the excuse was getting used to working nights. This summer, it is the fact that the studio is 110ºF.

The truth is, I have no creative drive – possibly due to a combination of the above.  However, I don’t even have that much of a creative drive to write.

Perhaps with cooler weather, and some paid days off in my future, I will tap into some reserve.

Captain’s is a little dive bar that Liz, Mike and I hit for a few cold beers after auction night.  It looks like it might be possible inspiration for a new American Bar Series painting. Captain’s is “My Kinda Place”… you know – that ubiquitous bar song from last decade that made you want to throw the cue ball into the jukebox with excessive force. Read more


captchaOkay – I let up on the rules allowing people to comment on my blog.  At first I restricted it to only people that registered – difficult for new users.

But I have two problems. One is the deluge of spam coming from China and Turkey.  The Turks destroyed this site with a massive attack at one time, due to my outspoken criticism of their government for denying the Armenian holocaust. The Chinese attacked me incessantly because I refuse to sell the domain name. Read more

Salsa/Pinata festival – art show

Art boothYesterday, Liz and I had a booth at the Salsa and Pinata Festival in Apache Junction. Temperatures hit the 100’s, so needless to say, traffic was slow. Heat, coupled with the fact that the snowbirds are heading home (a mixed blessing, IMO) kept attendance low.

The event had more booths than the previous farmers markets.  I am fortunately in the position to influence decisions, sitting on the board of SACA and friends with the people that hosted this event. Next year we will likely move it forward a month to April. Our organizations are already working on grants to fund the next year of events.

Cowboy SoapLiz was just hired by the Superstition Mountain museum, a full-time job with great hours and decent benefits – we will both have paid vacations in time to enjoy ourselves next spring.  I hear Key West calling – but maybe San Diego will be in the running – I have never been there. I have been to Palm Desert and Palm Springs – that was years ago. California Dreamin’…

Liz loves handmade soaps, and bought a supply for herself. She bought me a bar of Cowboy Beer Soap – made with real beer.  I would say it is a waste of good beer, but they used light beer, so I don’t feel so bad!

After the festival, we headed home and unpacked. Too spent to cook, we headed to the Handlebar – a great little pub and grill in Apache Junction. They have about 30 craft beers on tap, and a dozen or so wines from smaller wineries. Their menu is small, but everything is excellent. I had the fresh Alaska salmon with a side of bleu cheese potato salad and asparagus. They had a duo on guitars playing jazz versions of popular songs – low-keyed and a perfect way to end the day.


Ready for Prime Time

SACA Mural installedLast week Gustavo McGrew and his crew from Mountain Health and Wellness installed the two murals from the SACA Public Mural Project. They did a splendid job, and Gustavo envisions many more along the border of EarthHeart Park.

The murals are visible from the street, along the edge of the maze.  A benefit, beside the aesthetic, is that the murals will act as a shield for the community garden from passersby. Last month some miscreants stole a good amount of plants.

Though the park is on private property, Gustavo envisions it as public space and hence, there will be no fences or gates. Fortunately local businesses immediately banded together to replace the pillaged produce, and are working to make the area more secure with motion activated lights and such.

This coming Saturday the murals will be officially unveiled at the Salsa and Pinata Festival on the grounds. Our hopes on the board of SACA is that this will be the impetus for more interest from the community of Apache Junction as an area that is conducive to the arts, and to foster more interests from local business to support public art.

Pieces fall into place

saca mural 2The pieces finally fall into place. Today I congregated with Gustavo McGrew of Mountain Heath and Wellness (and fellow SACA board member) with Jeff Danford, Gail McFarland and Liz to puzzle out the final murals.

Fifty some-odd pieces by various artists of all ages lay in a pile, begging cohesion. The earth spirit was with us, providing perfect weather for the occasion.

saca mural 3Fifty-six diverse visions, artists from a youthful six-years old to a youthful 70+ years old all had their brushes involved. Political dalliances fell to the wayside as all joined in on a project to benefit the community. Gustavo was more than generous as his wallet became thinner with each phase of this project.  Apache Junction Ace Hardware gave willingly, providing much needed supplies.

In the end, seemingly incongruous pieces of art melded into a whole. Actually, into two wholes. Two 3-dimensional murals will soon be on permanent display at EarthHeart Park in Apache Junction. Gustavo will be overseeing the installation of 4X4 posts in the park, and next Saturday we will be on hand to erect the murals – to be publicly unveiled the following Saturday during the Salsa/Pinata festival. Gustavo is already talking about next year when we will install two more, creating a public art gallery on the grounds of the park.

SACA Mural Project – Day Three

SACA crew

Carl B. Johnson, Liz Nicklus, Jeff Danford, Gail McFarland

Saturday, April 12 marked the 3rd and final EarthHeart Park Farmer’s Market for the season. The event, sponsored by Mountain Health and Wellness featured family friendly events, live music, arts and crafts and of course, a lot of fresh local produce.

The Superstition Art and Cultural Alliance (SACA) has had a presence at all three events in the form of a community art project. We invited the public to paint fanciful designs on abstract shapes of wood. On Saturday’s event, we stuck with a monochromatic theme, black and white! The project was an overwhelming success; we opened the tent to the public at 9AM, and by 10AM all of our shapes were completed.  (The inset in the photo shows a completed mural.) Read more

A relaxing Saturday

amazing glass and ceramic sculpture  Like the Kinks song, I’m living on a low budget… There are trade-offs – you can live for the corporate master or you can live for yourself.  Years ago Liz and I decided to make that trade-off. Instead of a mansion on the hillside that we would never see because we are working to pay off mortgages and debts – well, I am still living to pay off debts… we opted for a simpler lifestyle, a small raqncher style house in the East Valley of the Sonoran Desert.

That'll teach 'em...The Apache Junction Library is a great source of freebies – such as free passes (first-come, first serve) to the Heard Museum of the American Indian in Phoenix. Liz picked up the last pass.  I used my $15 discount to Sun Up Brewery to help pay for lunch afterward.

The Heard Museum is located on beautiful grounds in downtown Phoenix, a few blocks past the Phoenix Art Museum.  The complex includes educational buildings, a restaurant, and several galleries of American Indian art both ancient and modern. Close to the main entrance is an amazing sculpture of glass and ceramic invoking desert plants such as cholla.

freeing artThere is an ongoing exhibition on the Indian Schools – one of which was located in Phoenix. The purpose of the schools was to educate the Indians, and “civilize” them. Their identity was stripped as they were inducted into the schools – but it was not long before they introduced their culture into the schools as they retained their dignity.

American Indian ledger artAn exhibition that was slated to come down, but given a reprieve is the Ledger Art show.  After the buffalo populations were decimated, and as tribes were relocated from the pueblos and mountains to reservations, the canvas for tribal art was lost. Most tribal art was a form of historical record of events – some events of import, and some more mundane.

Lacking the traditional canvas of hides and rock faces, a new generation used old ledgers as a canvas. Battles between tribes, and battles between Indians and US cavalry were recorded.  Fortunately these survived, and a current generation of American Indian artists have revived the media. This exhibition showcases ledger art, old and new.

Red IPA from Sun Up BreweryAfter the museum, we hit the Sun Up Brewing Company for lunch. Tucked in the heart of Phoenix, on Camelback Road, youhave to know where this gem is located, but it is worth the search.

Owing to my fairly recent sensitivity to factory farmed beef (I go into anaphylactic shock if I eat mass produced beef due to the crap that mega-agri-farms inject into the cattle throughout their life) I crave good hamburgers. Since by law, bison and buffalo cannot be injected with hormones and antibiotics and other garbage, I can eat it. I ordered a buffalo burger with cheddar cheese and mushrooms, and enjoyed their IPA.

The IPA was so good, I ordered a growler to go – next weekend I will crack that after we are home from the Earth Heart Park farmer’s and art market. I will have a tent this time, showcasing my Desert Detritus clocks and some paintings.



Pique Assiette Mosaic wall in progressAfter a hiatus, I began work again on the mosaic panel in our yard. It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon – I cranked up the tunes, opened an ice cold bottle of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, and got to work.

I put in a good four hours on the wall before dinner – filled in some empty spaces. A few more weekends and I should have this baby completed and ready for grouting – as long as the supplies hold out – I am running low on stained glass and used the last of the ceramic tile yesterday.

This morning it is much cooler – there is a front moving over the desert from California.  I will get a little more work done before the afternoon sun pokes out.