I’ve already written two posts about my recent visit to Meow Wolf, one a general review and one about buying a piece of art from the Art-o-mat® in the lobby. Yet, I still have a lot of photos I haven’t shared.
What’s weird is that while I felt as if I took a lot of photos while in the House of Eternal Return exhibit, when I look through my photos, I realize there were so many photo opportunities that I missed. I was trying to experience the experience and not live behind my camera, but it seems like I left out so much.
Of course, it would be difficult to adequately explain Meow Wolf to you even if I had carefully photographed every single different thing I saw. (Such a task would take a very long time.) There’s so much going on in the place. There are not only objects and paintings to look at, but there’s music happening and ever-changing lights. Some of the lights and music change because of something someone touches. In some places one can play music by touching lights. Almost every aspect of the House of Eternal Return is a multisensory extravaganza.
The only way to even begin to understand Meow Wolf is to make your own visit. Actually, there may be no way to understand Meow Wolf completely. But I certainly can’t explain it to you.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Meow Wolf for me is that those people have an entire bus in there! Is it a reference to Ken Kesey’s bus Furthur? Are the Meow Wolf artists on the bus or off the bus? Did I mention the bus is vertical, with its engine and front wheels in the air? We first encountered the bus on the ground floor. I was beyond pleased when we went upstairs and found the front half of it sticking up through the floor.
But is it art? Who cares? It’s an entire bus (or most of an entire bus…I couldn’t tell if it was all there) inside a building sticking up through the floor. What is there not to love?
Here area few more random things I saw during my visit to Meow Wolf.
Even the long hallway between the ticket counter and the restrooms was full of art. The whole place was about art and life and thought and coolness.
When I go back to Meow Wolf, and I do plan to go back, I will take more photos.
I’m doing something a little different today. Maybe you noticed. I’m using galleries for the first time so I can share many photos at once with you. If you click on the smaller photos, they’ll enlarge so you can see the better. I’d love to know what you think about this format. Tell me what you think in the comments.
I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. The low light in the exhibit made for substandard image quality. My apologies.
After a little more than two hours in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM, The Man and I thought we had seen all there was to see. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t. The Man saw a photo of a ship on a magnet in the gift shop and realized we hadn’t laid eyes on the actual structure. We had no idea how to get to the ship at the time, so we decided we were ready to leave. We think we know how to find the ship now, which is one of the reasons we want to go back.)
Anyway, we were on our way to the Meow Wolf gift shop so I could pick up a couple of postcards (and two is all I bought since they cost $1 each), when I saw it: the Art-o-mat®.
I’d heard of Art-o-mat® machines, although the term for them in my brain was “art vending machine.” I’d maybe even seen one, somewhere, but I’d never bought art from one before. I figured if there was ever a time and place for buying art from a vending machine, that time and place was now, in the lobby of one of the greatest art spaces I had ever experienced.
The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane…
In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®…The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each…
AIC [Artists in Cellophane] is the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat®. The mission of AIC is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. AIC believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable…
Do you have a $5 bill, I asked The Man. I’d broken my fiver to buy a pair of Meow Wolf chromadepth glasses (a waste of $1, as far as The Man and I were concerned) and spent another buck to have my fortune told by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda stationed in a glass cube in the arcade. I was now $2 short of buying a small piece of art from the Art-o-mat®.
The Man pulled out his wallet, rummaged through it, and produced a $5 bill. Yes! Now we could choose which knob to pull.
Oh! What a decision! We had twenty choices after all! Twenty. Choices.
The top row had the name of a specific artist above each knob. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of the names. There was even information about what kind of art would be dispensed above some of the knobs. Did I want a leather key ring? Did I want matchbox art? I was overcome by choices.
On the second row, each knob was labeled “Random Art.” Maybe I would be better off if I let the Universe decide what piece of art I needed. Of course, there were still ten “Random Art” choices. I managed to narrow my choices down to two.
Should I go with creating a rainbow by buying art? (Note: I knew that buying art doesn’t really create rainbows even before I read the disclaimer.) Should a take a chance on an unknown artist? Although I’m not much of a gambler, I decided to go with taking a chance.
The Man fed the money into the bill acceptor of the sort one uses to get change at a car wash or laundromat. Now was my moment to pull the knob.
The aforementioned Art-o-mat® website answers the question What do you get? [from the dispenser] this way:
The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector.
Pulling the knob was a thrill. Those old machines were built to be sturdy, so I had to give it a strong tug. I was rewarded with a hearty thunk! when the art fell into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser. I reached in and grabbed something the approximate size and shape of a package of cigarettes, although this item was heavier than the packs of cigarettes I’ve held. I thought the art would come in an old cigarette box, but instead it was wrapped in paper to keep it from getting scratched. I peeled off the paper and found a small painting (or maybe the image was created with markers) on a block of wood.
I’m not sure what exactly is depicted here. Like all good art, it leaves the viewer with some questions. Is that the sun in the upper left? Is that water on the bottom? Is it a lake? An ocean? Why is it jagged? What’s in the space between the sun and the water? The middle space looks really hot. Is it hell? Phoenix in July? What does it all mean?
You can answer those questions for yourself. You can ask more questions if you like. As for me, I appreciate this piece of art and its randomness and mystery. Most of all, I enjoyed the experience of buying art from a vending machine.
The Man and I finally visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, and we had an awesome time. I want to tell you all about it, but please know that my words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice.
Actually, even if I could tell you all about Meow Wolf and show you all of my photos, I probably shouldn’t. Part of the fun for me was going in fresh, not really knowing what to expect. Before I went, I purposefully avoided doing a lot of research on the place. I wanted to experience what was there without a lot of foreknowledge.
I did know a little bit about Meow Wolf before I went, and I will share some information with you.
Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [The group was] established in 2008 as an art collective.
The aforementioned webpage says,
Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!
Also, Meow Wolf is housed inside an old bowling alley! According to the Meow Wolf FAQs, the bowling alley closed in 2008 and sat empty for several years. There is no bowling there now and the lanes have been stripped out.
While reading those FAQs to learn more about the old bowling alley, I learned how Meow Wolf got its name.
At the very first meeting of the collective in 2008, everyone put two words into a hat. Then they picked two random words out of the hat and got “Meow Wolf.”
There are some things you should know about Meow Wolf Santa Fe before you go. It is located at 1352 Rufina Circle, just off Cerrillos Road. Regular hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Meow Wolf is closed on Tuesdays. Check holiday closures here.
The parking lot at Meow Wolf is rather small, but parking is also available on nearby streets. The Man and I visited at noon on a Sunday and had to park about two blocks away. The parking lot is not available to RVs, trailers, or other oversized vehicles; such vehicles must be parked on the street. Vandwellers traveling with companion animals should note that animal control may be called if animals are left unattended in vehicles in the Meow Wolf parking lot. Vandwellers should also note that overnight parking is not allowed in the lot.
Strollers, backpacks and oversized bags are not allowed in the exhibit, but the items can be securely stored for you for a small fee. Stroller/walker/wheel chair storage is complementary.
An important concern for many people is the accessibility of Meow Wolf. This is what the FAQ page has to say about accessibility:
[T]he first floor of our exhibition is ADA accessible and navigable by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, but some areas may require additional navigational guidance from our docent staff (they are here to help!). There is almost always more than one way to access to an area…We do not have elevators…to the second floor, though, and the second floor is much more difficult to navigate as well (more single steps up/down and narrow passageways). Areas with flashing lights are located behind clearly labeled doors. You do not need to coordinate ADA accommodations with staff prior to your arrival – just know that we are here to help however we can.
Also note that there are many places throughout the exhibit to sit and rest. From cushions on the floor to sofas and chairs, you do not have to be on your feet for hours on end. There are also several points where it is possible to exit to the lobby so you can visit the restroom, get a snack or beverage at Float Cafe & Bar, browse in the gift shop, or quietly create art in the David Loughridge Learning Center. You can decide to go back into the thick of things as long as you haven’t left the building.
If you’re concerned about getting overstimulated at Meow Wolf (and this is a distinct possibility for many folks), consider picking up a sensory bag at the front desk. What is a sensory bag? The FAQ page says
[s]ensory bags are a tool guests can utilize to aid in their experience inside House of Eternal Return. Each bag can be checked out upon arrival and has items inside to help ground and re-center folks who might feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while inside the exhibit.
Admission to Meow Wolf is what I consider pricey. The regular adult admission price is $30. The regular admission price for a child over the age of four is $20. Children ages four and under enjoy free admission! (Anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied and supervised by a guardian over 18 years old.) Students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military pay $25 to get in.
If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’re in luck because you get a discount. Cost of admission for adult residents of New Mexico is $25. Children who are residents of New Mexico pay only $15, and the student/senior/military rate for New Mexico residents is $20. However, every Monday and Wednesday night (4-8 PM) and Second Sunday of the month New Mexico residents pay only half off the New Mexico resident admission rate.
While I typically enjoy activities that are free and cheap, I recognize that my admission fee is helping to pay artists and maintain the Meow Wolf facilities. I can tell you that every aspect of Meow Wolf from the restrooms to the tree houses to the cushions on the floor were clean and in perfect working order.
I was also pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter a single person behaving in an obnoxious way. Although there were lots of people at Meow Wolf the day we visited, people were being respectful of one another. Children were having a good time, but no one was screaming or running or annoying strangers. Adults were well-behaved too, and not once did the word asshat run through my mind.
If you haven’t already figured it out, there’s a lot going on at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. There is an actual, full-size house, complete with portals (hint: there are five) to other dimensions. (And here’s another hint for you: start with the house. You can start in the other dimensions, but for your first time, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the house.)
You will see people stepping into and out of household appliances; you can step through some of them too, if you wish. There’s a mystery you can try to solve as you move through the house. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to solve the mystery or if it is meant to remain unsolved, but look for the clues and decide for yourself.) You can open cabinets in the kitchen and find wondrous things. You can sit in the bathtub or on the toilet of the wavy-floored bathroom. You can look into the cookie jar and see what awaits you there.
Once you move through the portals, you enter fantasy worlds filled with art and music and soft lights and magic. Well, maybe not magic; maybe what you experience is technology cleverly disguised to seem like magic. Even if you’ve never dabbled in psychedelics, you will know you’re in a the midst of some trippy shit.
There’s an entire bus in there and a dinner you wouldn’t want to eat even if you could. There are beams of red light you can play like harp strings (or drums), giant birds, and a multitude of items that will make you wonder WTF?Is it art? you may ask yourself. Does it really matter? It’s beauty and fun and color and experimentation and the chance for childlike wonder.
When we left Meow Wolf (after realizing we’d missed an entire reality but too tired to figure out how to get to it), The Man said he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really feel the need to ever go back. But the next day, we were still talking about our experiences in the House of Eternal Return, and we both admitted we were excited to explore the place again. (Maybe it’s called the House of Eternal Return because so many visitors want to go back.)
I can’t speak for other people who’ve been there, but The Man and I are saving our pennies so we can visit Meow Wolf again.
I took the photos in this post, except for the very last one. The low light in most of the exhibits and the camera on my cheap phone made for substandard photographs. My apologies.
My favorite Little Free Library (LFL) Nolagirl and I visited during our Phoenix Little Free Library excursion was the second one we went to. This one has the name “Friendly by Nature,” and the charter number is 5974. This registered LFL is decorated with beautiful, colorful mosaics and sits at the front of a yard decorated with more mosaics.
Little Free Library is a registered nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.
As soon as Nolagirl parked in front of the house this LFL
belongs to, I was attracted to the library’s bright colors. I was really
excited when I got out of the vehicle and moved closer to the library and
discovered the brightly colored scenes were composed from irregular tiles. WOW!
I also greatly appreciated the desert scenes featured on this LFL. Pictured on
the LFL are a saguaro cactus, the hot midday sun, and the starry night visible
when one leaves the city behind. Beneath the moonlight, there is a row of
books, much like those found in the actual Little Free Library.
The outside of the Little Free Library was not the only thing on the property sporting bright mosaics. Several round poles just beyond the LFL were also decorated with colorful tiles. I didn’t want to infringe upon the privacy of the steward of the little library, but I did snap a few photos of other pieces of mosaic art.
I was so impressed with the artistic work that I wrote out a
quick note expressing my appreciation. I left the note tucked in the LFL. I
think it’s really important to tell people when we like their work. I know from
experience that artists often don’t get enough positive feedback, so I like to
rectify that situation when I can.
I left my email address on the note, and several days later I was pleased to find a message from the artist in my inbox. She wrote,
Thank you for the postcard regarding my Little Free Library and my other mosaics. I retired from Intel about three years ago and started making mosaics. I have done many commissions.
My adobe house, courtyard and casita are my inspiration!
The artist then invited me to come over and see more of her mosaics! Wow! I was so flattered. Unfortunately, I already had plans for all of my days in Phoenix and I was unable to visit the artist and see more of her work. So disappointing! I’ve dropped the ball during my subsequent visits to Phoenix and never made plans to go over to this gracious woman’s house. My bad. Maybe someday I can still pay her a visit. I sure hope so because I want to see more of these splendid mosaics!
It’s difficult to adequately capture the sculpture Two Horses in one photograph because the piece has many angles to explore. I’d taken one shot of it (the photo above) during my visit to downtown Mesa in the spring of 2016, but I never thought this photo was enough. During my exploration of a few blocks of downtown Mesa with Nolagirl in March of 2018, I was able to get a few more shots.
Two Horses was created by artist William Barnhart. According to Barnhart’s website, he received a BFA from Brigham Young University in 1984 and continued with graduate studies at Arizona State University in 1985. He is a resident of Mesa and has been a professional artist for over 30 years.
You can see more of William Barnhart’s sculptures on his webpage, which shows both sculptures in a pre-cast state and those that have been cast in bronze.
I love the texture of this piece, which begs to be touched. The plaque on the base of this piece explains how Barnhart made the horses look this way.
The sculpture’s unique surface was created by layering wet plaster over modeled forms of two horses, then allowing the plaster to run and drip. The effect is a texture with a random, organic appearance over a highly controlled form. Subsequent processes were used to transform the sculpture into its final bronze state.
I met Sue Soaring Sun in December of 2014. She’d seen me repeatedly at the coffeeshop in the small Southwest town where we were both wintering and intoduced herself. An hour later when we ran into each other again in the thrift store, she told me about Bob Wells’ Cheap RV Living website. I soon learned about the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and decided to attend. I guess you could call Sue my rubber tramp fairy godmother because she introduced me to vandwelling as a way of life and not just something I had to do because I had few options.
Sue is also my Sun sisiter, a fellow artist and blogger, a writer of fabulous letters, and a dear friend. She is the proprieter ofSun Gallery at 407-1/2 N Broadway in Truth or Consequences, NM. Sun Gallery is a folk art and antiques gallery which features Sue’s paintings, collages, and mosaic work.
We were in different states when I started this interview series, so I sent her questions via email. Today you’re in for a treat because you get to read her answers.
You’re not a vandweller, but you do live nomadically. How long have you been on the road?
I’ve been living and traveling in an RV more often than not since February 14, 2011.
What sort of rig do you live and travel in?
I have had Brownie, a 1984 20-foot Lazy Daze mini-motorhome, for about 14 months.
I know you’ve had other rigs. What were they and why did you decide against them?
I’ve had a couple of Toyota Dolphin 22-foot mini-motorhomes, and they were great for when I travel solo, which is most of the time. Sometimes, though, I travel with my boyfriend, and I wanted something that would work for two. We tried a Class A for a while, but found it was way too much for either of us to want to drive, so we parked it and used it as a part-time urban home base. Last year I found the Lazy Daze which has a lot more power and is about a foot taller and wider than the Dolphin coach. Even though it’s shorter, it’s a bit more spacious. Now I’m selling the Class A. I no longer want to use it as a home base. I have an art gallery that serves that function. So I’m staying in the Lazy Daze all the time, except for if I happen to housesit or stay in a vacation rental.
What are your three favorite things about your current rig? What would you change about it if you could?
This is how Sue has been decorating the inside of her rig to make Brownie less brown. She gave me permission to use this photo of hers.
*I love the big back windows, and my floorplan has the dinette right there. I can back up to a beautiful lake or river or other view and watch birds and other wildlife from the comfort of my table, drinking coffee and wearing my cozy slippers.
*It has more power and feels more solid than my past mini-mohos. I can pass other vehicles if necessary.
*It is very cool looking. Shagalicious, baby.
What I’d change…it is very brown inside, hence the name Brownie. I am slowly replacing brownness with color and creativity. Also, Brownie takes a lot of gas. I have to budget more carefully than I used to.
I took this photo of the RTArt Camp banner that Sue and I painted together.
How does living nomadically enhance your life as an artist?
Whoo-boy! Living nomadically goes hand-in-hand with my creativity. I’m sure when I’m old and can no longer travel, I will still make art. But so much of what I do now is inspired by what I see and the experiences I have along the road. Traveling has brought me in touch with so many other artists, and now, since the first RTArt Camp at this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), we have even started an intentional community for nomadic artists. Imagine that! I could not have predicted all that would come out of a simple idea of wanting to do art with other people while at the RTR. When I spend time camping with other artists, I am inspired. After our recent Rubber Tramp Art Community gathering, I stopped at a beautiful free boondocking site and spent five days doing nothing but paint, eat and sleep.
Does living nomadically make your life more challenging in any ways?
Yes. I have struggled in my new rig to deal with temperature extremes. This summer, I found myself unexpectedly staying in Truth or Consequences, NM, and I could not find any good way to keep my cat and myself cool in the RV. Fortunately, a friend who goes away for the summer let me stay at her house. Next summer, I will probably seek a higher elevation, as I had wanted to this year. I gradually solved my problems with cold last winter, but it took a while.
Also, it can be very inconvenient and expensive when I have to go stay somewhere else if my rig is in the shop.
Do you mostly boondock on free public land?
Yes. I also stay behind my art gallery, in a parking lot. I can hook up to electricity there.
I took this photo of this free riverfront boondocking area where Sue and I camped together.
Under what circumstances do you pay for a campsite?
I sometimes pay for a campsite or an RV park site when I have a lot of things I’d like to get done…shower, laundry, dumping the tanks, etc. I’ve also stayed at campgrounds when my boyfriend and I are traveling together in parts of the country where you usually need reservations, such as our recent trip to Florida. And occasionally I have friends who want to go stay at a campground, and I tag along for the fun.
Do you do much stealth parking in cities?
My Lazy Daze is built on a Chevy G30 van chassis, but it doesn’t look like a van! It’s built out into a motorhome. So no, I can’t get away with it.
Do you travel with everything you own?
No. I rent commercial space that I use as an art gallery and studio. I keep most of my art supplies there, as well as off-season clothing and things that I only use occasionally.
Sonja Begonia in Brownie’s big back window. Photo used with Sue’s permission.
You share your rig with a cat companion. Has she been on the road with you her whole life? If not, how did you help her transition to life on the road?
Sonja Begonia was about a year old when I got her in 2008, and I went on the road in 2011. She also has some attitude, so I could not get her leash-trained before starting to travel, as I’d hoped, nor since. At first, for her own safety, I had to keep her in a kennel while traveling because otherwise she would try to get out of the RV when we stopped, and many stops are not a safe place for a pet to get out. Now I just start the engine and she gets in her co-pilot seat.
What’s the best part of living nomadically?
I love driving six miles from my art gallery and boondocking on the bank of the Rio Grande. Or, when I’m on the road, finding an unexpected fantastic view. It’s being free to change my scenery, and to be immersed in it. I keep my gallery open very part-timey and give myself lots of time to travel and create.
Do you miss anything about living in a sticks-n-bricks?
Gardening. I like centering myself by digging in dirt. So, at my gallery, for one or two months out of the year, I create fairy gardens for sale. I am also going to get myself a dashboard/cab plant once the 100+ degree weather has passed this summer.
I don’t miss any other thing, not one. I get to experience sticks-n-bricks living occasionally, and it always confirms for me that I prefer to live nomadically.
I have to bring my kid to Mesa, she said. She’d been thinking about checking out the free spark! event at the Mesa Arts Center. I told her that was fine with me. Nolagirl always finds the quirkiest, funkiest, grooviest, all-around-most-fun activities in the greater metro area, and I’m pretty open to trying new things. If Nolagirl likes a cultural event, I’m probably going to like it too.
This year’s Festival of Creativity will feature an exhibition of 16 art cars, multiple hot rods and lowriders, and interactive arts experiences for people of all ages. spark! celebrates the imaginative spark in all of us, by showcasing Arizona artists and performers and inviting visitors to explore and enjoy live music, aerial dance performances, hands-on experiences, live art-making, installations, demonstrations, a variety of foods, a beer, wine and cocktail area and more.
We arrived at the event around noon. The crowd consisted of a lot of families with kids, but there were plenty of adults without children out there too. I was glad to see the event wasn’t packed; we could still move around just fine and experience everything that was happening.
We entered the festival from Main Street. We could hear the music of the 1950s being performed by Come Back Buddy as we approached. The music was good, and I’m sure I was tapping my foot and swaying my hips, but it was The Night Garden by Jenneva Kayser of Tempe, AZ that really got our attention. We were fascinated by the cacti created from what the aforementioned website calls “woven recycled fabric and translucent porcelain clay.”
Teams of youth and adult artists work together to explore the public transit experience with original plays from a youth perspective…Performers…travel between platforms to maximize the number of people who can experience performances!
We didn’t stop to watch the performance, although we did pause briefly to see the vast array of “food” that festival participants had molded and shaped. The sparks! website calls this participatory activity led by Elliott Kayser a “Community Still-Life in Clay.”
A dining room table set in the style of a classical still-life painting, complete with ceramic serviceware, [was] created prior to the event. During the festival, colorful clay [was] given out to festival-participants with a prompt: to make food that they associate with family tradition. Performers dressed as waiters…compose[d] and arrange[d] the finished “food” within the still-life.
It’s like a coloring page on a car!
A little farther down was a chalkboard car folks could decorate with colored chalk. This interactive experience was the brainchild of artist Kyllan Maney. The sparks! website says this 1981 BMW 528 was
pre-installed with chalkboard paint on the exterior and black lights in the interior. Festival goers [were] invited to color the car in a pre-planned design with chalkboard markers. Vinyl chalkboard shaped birds [were] temporarily adhered to the ground making pathways to the interactive art car, to mimic shadows [of] the birds flying overhead.
When we walked up, volunteers were cleaning off the chalk so newcomers could experience the fun of coloring on a car. We didn’t linger to do any decorating of our own.
The next cool thing we saw was the construction of an art car under the leadership of Harrod Blank, and (apparently very busy) artist Kyllan Maney. The spark! website explains the finished result will be an art car called “Desert Marlin” which was
I love the glass saguaros on this art car.
inspired by the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert. The exterior will be covered with cactus and succulents ranging in size and texture, created out of metal, glass and painted directly on the car. The interior, inspired by the “heart” of the Mesa Arts Center community, will be created by visitors to the festival. They will be invited to create and add a piece to the car during the event.
It was probably when Nolgirl said art car while telling me about the event that I was totally in. It had been a long time since I’d been to an art car event, but I think it’s really cool to take something as ordinary as a motor vehicle and turn it into something original and unique. Nolagirl and I spent probably the next hour looking at each of the sixteen art cars and two art cycles on display in the Arts Center parking lot. (I’ll be sharing photos and info on my favorite art cars in upcoming blog posts.)
I had so much fun sitting in this chair!
After looking at the art cars, Nolagirl and I went off in search of a restroom. Before we found the restrooms, we found magnificent wobbly chairs. Based on Weeble Wobble technology, the chairs swayed, tipped, and rolled, but never dumped the occupant on the ground. Nolagirl and I both tired out a chair, but I think I enjoyed my experience more. Once I realized I was safe in the chair, I relaxed, leaned back, and had a good ol’ time. I would have played in the chair for the next half hour if little kids hadn’t been waiting their turn.
(I made up the part about Weeble Wobble technology. I mean, yes, there is a certain technology that allows Weebles to wobble but not fall down, but I don’t know if the chairs worked on the same principle.)
We were directed to a restroom in the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. I was surprised to see a proclamation of “free admission” on the door. Admission wasn’t just free on that day, but all the time! Wow! I will remember to take advantage of this free admission if I’m ever in Mesa again.
After our visit to the (very clean) restroom, we decided to spend some time with the museum’s exhibits. I was glad the museum was a manageable size. I go into art overload rather easily, so I was happy to see three rooms of current pieces and be done.
When we left the museum, Nolagirl was hungry, so she ordered some food from the Short Leash Hot Dogs truck. I found an umbrella-shaded table, and ate a LÄRABAR® while I waited. After our lunch, we thought we’d seen it all and started heading back to the car. When we got to Main Street, I asked, Is there more to see over there? so we walked over to check. Yes, there was more to see!
There were more cars over there. They weren’t art cars, but they did have bright and shiny paint jobs and they weren’t like the average cars on the street. These were hot rods and low riders representing different car clubs. I couldn’t find any information about these cards on the sparks! website. Although I’m not a huge car buff, I did enjoy the bright, shiny colors of the automobile exteriors.
We were heading to the corner when we saw a crowd gathered against the rail above the museum’s courtyard. What’s going on over there? we wondered, then saw the women sitting on the museum’s roof. Oh! It looked like we’d be able to catch the last performance of the Dark Sky Aerial theatre company.
Photo courtesy of Nolagirl.
It was a mesmorizing performance both above and below us. (I’m confident the dancers performing on the ground were part of CaZo Dance Company, but I couldn’t find any information online to confirm this assertion.)
While six performers in white dance and tumbled in the coutyard below, five women in black used the outside walls of the museum as their vertical stage. They flew through the air, harnessed to ropes that both tethered them to the stability of the building and allowed them to soar through the air. In about a dozen minutes, the show was over. Lots of people were still having fun at the spark! event but for me and Nolagirl, the performance of Dark Sky Aerial and CaZo Dance was a magnificent end to a fun time at the festival.
Photo of me enjoying myself in the titly chair courtesy of Nolagirl.
I took the photos in this post, unless otherwise noted.
Nolagirl and I were walking on Main Street in Mesa, AZ, looking for the Big Pink Chair. We approached a building at McDonald, on the south side of Main. I saw murals painted in large, shallow alcoves on the east side of the building.
I’ve never seen these before, I said.
The murals show Arizona natural landscapes and other snapshots of the state’s natural scenery.
I love the vivid sun and the way this painting seems to invite the viewer to stop right into those mountains. I don’t know who painted it.
The mural below was painted by Matlock the Artist, as we can see from the stenciled “signature” on the bottom left of the piece below. Matlocktheartist.com seems to be out of commission, but I traced the moniker to Mark Matlock, artist and owner/curator of (possibly defunt) Fragment Gallery in Tucson. The most current information I could find (2015) is that Matlock left Tucson and moved to Mesa.
This larger-than-life rendering of saguaro blossoms is my favorite of the nature scene murals. The desert is extra beautiful when the saguaros are in bloom.
I think it’s great when the artist has an element from one painting invisibly span the empty space between the two murals and pick up in the adjacent painting. I think this technique helps show the relationship between the murals and make them seem less like isolated pieces. In the pieces above and below, you can see how the artist has used this technique with the the tree branch that runs in front of the saguaro and ends up in the top right corner of the mural featuring the young woman.
Only one of these murals includes the human form, in the person of a young woman standing under the phases of the moon. Who is this woman? Who does she represent? Why is she standing under the changing moon? Those are questions I can’t answer.
I also wonder who painted this mural. I can’t see a signature anywhere. Can you?
I don’t see a signature on this mural either, but it reminds me of a small painting on the other side of Main Street, just down from the Smith-O-Lator cookie store. Perhaps the same anonymous artist created both paintings.
studied painting, drawing, and sculpture at the University of Kansas in the early 1990’s…
Currently, [she is] most interested in drawing the people and places where [she] live[s]…in Apache Junction, including the mountains, rodeos, restaurants, cars, bull riders, spectators, actors, horses. [She] also paint[s] murals of similar subject matter.
I like the juxtaposition here of a very traditional Western scene topped by an abstract representation of the sky. I wonder if the three figures on horses are perhaps riding off into hell.
On the other side of the building, where a wide alley bisects the block, we found more murals painted in large shallow alcoves. While the first murals we saw depict scenes of the state’s natural beauty, the second set shows aspects of mid-20th century American Southwest civilization such as advertisements on Route 66 and other highways and byways of a pre-interstate era.
I don’t see a signature on this depiction of the Buckhorn Baths sign.
These are all places in Arizona, Nolagirl said in awe.
Using an abnormally bright color pallet to deliver my New School Pop Art Style, my work is both bold and versatile, often filled with humor and fun loving characters of the Southwest, commonly laced with hidden messages that speak to the idea of unity and community.
Jesse Perry’s website says he painted this mural with spray paint. I love the Arizona sunset sky.
Also featured in the East Valley Tribune article was this mural by Mark Matlock, aka Matlock the Artist. According to the article, only black and white photos of the sign he chose to paint were available ,
so he had to choose colors for the mural. His desire was to make the mural look like an old post card and look like neon. He used a wash to rub over the final work…
My favorite of the neon sign murals is this one by David “Dski One” Oswoski of Mesa. I like the slightly blurry edges which gives the piece a dreamlike quality. I can imagine being a little kid in the backseat of the family Buick, eyes half closed after a long day of fun and seeing this sign beckoning me to spend the night in one of their clean, comfortable beds.
I was glad to spend some time with these murals; they really help beautify the two walls. It’s nice to have these downtown reminders of Arizona’s colorful commercial past and its fragile natural beauty.
Our day in Mesa started at Lost Dutchman Cafe (12 N. Center Street ) where we met a friend of mine who was living in the area. As we left the coffeeshop, Nolagirl spotted two brightly decorated electrical boxes. You know it’s a pretty cool part of town when even the utility hardware is turned into works of art.
I’d been on a self-guided art tour of downtown Mesa in the spring of 2016, and now Nolagirl and I were walking around on Main Street in March of 2018. We’d just left the Sparks! event at the Arts Center, and we were looking for the Big Pink Chair. I love the Big Pink Chair, and I was hoping Nolagirl could take some photos of me sitting in it. During our walk up and down (or was that down and up?) Main Street, we saw several pieces of public art, some I’d seen in 2016 and some brand new.
As we headed to the Arts Center early in the day, I noticed this Mesa mural painted in the style of an old-school postcard. I particularly like the saguaro and mountain scene painted in the “M.” This mural is across the street from Milano Music Center, and I took some photos while I was standing in front of the music store, but they didn’t look so good. I took this photo in the afternoon when I ened up right in front of the mural.
The artist is Ericka Jaynes, and you can find her on Facebook.
Down the street, we saw another mural I’d admired inthe past. This one is called Mesa Mural.
The way the sun hits it on spring afternoons makes it very difficult to photograph because the lighting is uneven. If I were a better photographer, I’d probably know how to even out the shadows and light. Nolagirl and I decided the best time to capture the mural is probably in the morning, during the golden hour, before the sun and surrounding buildings work together to cast shadows on it.
I’ll go ahead and share my 2016 photo of the mural, even though it’s not perfect.
I like the wavy, funhouse mirror quality of the scene. Is the fantasy building going to fall down? Will it quiver but continue to stand? Did the building do psychedelics or is it the viewer who’s chemically altered? Maybe the artist was on drugs or maybe the idea for this building came from a fever vision. In any case, I think it’s a fun mural.
An October 2012 article in the East Valley Tribune answers many questions about the mural. The building it graces was once the Eclectic Monkey Emporium, a second-hand clothing store. No drugs were involved in the idea for the mural; the building in the painting is supposed to be melting, as in from the heat. The artists who created this hot but cool mural are R.E. Wall and Margaret Dewar.
Outside the Smith-O-Lator cookie shop (124 West Main Street), two pieces of art decorate two columns in front of the store.
The first was created by public participation during an art event in downtown Mesa. Used 16 oz. plastic water bottles were cut open, painted, then attached close together to look like a patch of flowers growing out of the building. I love the texture (how cool that old plastic bottles can look fluffy!), and I was impressed by how well the color has held up to the Arizona sun and heat.
Next to the installation of water bottle flowers is a painting of a mermaid, or more accurately, half a mermaid. She is delightful, although I don’t know who painted her or under what circumstances. (When I enlarge the photo, I can see see what appears to be the remnants of letters on the bottom of the painting, but they’re too faint for me to read them.) How does she fit into the landscape of downtown Mesa? Maybe the artist longed for the sea while being stuck in the desert.
Not far down the sidewalk is a painted scene that is a better fit for a desert town. I love that big saguaro reaching up to the cloudy sky and the purple mountains in the background. I also love the sense of anticipation I get from this piece. Is there a storm brewing? Will there be rain?
I can’t tell if the names in the white paint on the bottom right of the piece is the artist’s signature or ramdom tagging. Can anyone solve the mystery of who created this bit of urban art?
The last piece of art I saw as we continued walking on Main Street was an old favorite. I’d first seen it in 2016, which is when I took this photo.
[t]he visual foundation of Kyllan’s work is rooted in scientific illustrations, religious icons, human relationships and inspiration from past and current artists.
I love that the dove is also a map of Mesa. “YOU ARE HERE” the map says, in a place of love and peace. Mesa can be a place of drugs and crime, heat and desperation, but in this piece Maney reminds us that art can be a kind of sanctuary.
Nolagirl and I were out and about at night in Phoenix, off to see the art of Aileen Frick at a locally owned hotel called FOUND:RE.
We’d discovered Aileen Frick at the Grand Avenue Festival. Actually, Nolagirl discovered her.
She called me over quietly but urgently. You’ve got to see this, she said with excitement in her voice. I joined her in front of a large-scale painting…but wait! It wasn’t just a painting…it was a collage too, but collage in a way I’d never seen done before. Say the artist wanted a tree in her scene. She wouldn’t go through magazines, find an image of a tree, cut it out, and stick it to her canvan. Oh no, not this artist. This artist found different shades of green in magazines, ripped out green bits by hand, then reassembled the paper into a tree! By reading her bio, we learned that later in the process, she painted over and around the images made of paper to tie together all of the elements of her creation. Her finished results were amazing! It was from the bio that we learned the name of the person who created this collage magic: Aileen Frick.
Frick creates large-scale beautiful cityscapes through which featureless people walk while living their ordinary lives. The cities are recognizable to those in the know, and it’s fun to identify places you’re been, but there’s something dream-like about the landscapes too. They’re based in reality, but they’re not quite real.
Image of A Fresh Spin used with permission of Aileen Frick.
From a distance Frick’s pieces look misleadingly like photographs, but upon closer inspection, the viewer can appreciate the time-consuming tearing and matching of colors that went into the work. In some of her creations, words that match the theme of the piece have been discretely included in the scene.
It may be cliché to say I was moved by Frick’s art, but it’s an easy way to explain how I felt. My heart was moved. My brain was moved. My spirit of creativity was moved. Frick’s technique and her end results left me feeling breathless and giddy. Frick’s art inspired me to create, not by copying her but by getting in touch with my own style. I think I had an immdiate crush on Frick’s collage/painting hybrids.
We came around a corner and there was Aileen Frick in the flesh! She was working on a new creation right there in the gallery.
When we walked up, she was talking with another fan. We waited patiently for our turn.
The other woman walked away, and we stood there with Frick and her easel. I tried to stay coherant as I gushed about how much I was enjoying and appreciating her work. She was so friendly and personable and gracious! I wanted to take her and her art home with me. (Of course, I lived in a van, so I had no room for her or her large-scale art. She probably had her own place anyway.)
A few weeks later, Frick posted on her Facebook page information about an upcoming showing of her work at the FOUND:RE hotel in Phoenix. Can we go? Can we go? I asked Nolagirl. She said we could.
FOUND:RE was full of art that night. We saw a lot of good work, inclduing at least a half dozen pieces by Aileen Frick. As a special treat, we got the see the recently completed piece we’d seen her workig on during the Grand Street Festival.
Frick was there too, and she recognized me and Nolagirl. Maybe she didn’t remember when and where we’d met, but she did remember we were fans. She stopped to talk to us and thank us for coming out on opening night. Once again, she was very gracious and kind. Aileen Frick is not just a fantastic artist; she’s also a friendly and sweet person.
A highlight of the evening (in addition to seeing Frick’s art and telling her hello) was when an art dealer tried to sell me and Nolagirl some art. We were looking at some pop art pieces near the bar when a slick-looking man came up to us and started talking about prices. We expressed scant interest, and he wandered away. We agreed we appreciated being mistaken for people who could afford to buy art.
I think we were on our way out when we walked across the lobby and noticed the colorful patterns projected onto the floor. What are those? I wondered. That’s when the lights moved.
We realized quickly that the patterns were motion activated. Our movements made the light patterns move across the floor, then we reacted to the movment of the lights. Soon Nolagirl and I were dancing, skipping, swooping, whirling, and twilrling across the lobby as we played with the lights. It was interactive fun.
Nolagirls says, “This one would drop confetti when you walked/ran/danced through.” That’s me in the upper left of the photo in my red boots and elephant skirt.
I think the guy at the front desk who controlled the projector was amused by us. I’m sure it’s not every day that a couple of middle aged ladies dance through his lobby and play with the lights on the floor like cats going after the red dot of a lazer pointer. Several times he changed the patterns, telling us each time that we would like the new one. He was never wrong.
Nolagirl says this pattern reminds her of Charlie’s Angels. I’m twirling right out of the photo.
A couple of times, tipsy peoiple leaving the bar saw us having fun and joined in our play. They seemed to enjoy themselves too, but soon wandered off to the next stop of the night. Nolagirl and I must have played with those light patterns for twenty or thirty minutes. Finally, we thanked the front desk worker for indulging us, then we too walked out into the night.
As we exited the building, we took the time to take photos of the neon message on the front of the building. “Find Yourself” it commanded. I think we already had.
Thanks to a kind friend who–when Nolagirl and I told her this story–asked why I hadn’t shared it in a blog post. Also, endless gratitude to Nolagirl who’s always up for an adventure and can talk to anyone from the Queen of England to a dirty trainhopper kid with interest and respect. Nolagirl’s friendship makes me brave.
First two photos courtesy of Nolagirl. The last photo was taken by me. Nolagirl also contributed to some of the writing about Aileen Frick’s art.