Thirty years ago, then-mayor of Scottsdale Herb Drinkwater would take Michael J. Fox – no, not that Michael J. Fox – out in his Jeep to look at property to the north of downtown Scottsdale, “which, to the north then, was like Shea Boulevard,” Fox remembers. As director of the Heard Museum, and a guy who’d launched art institutions in Berkeley and in Flagstaff, Fox was known as a development whiz. Meanwhile, Drinkwater was enamored with the idea of developing a museum dedicated to the art and history of the American West, and wanted to share his vision with Fox.
If you took a tour bus and filled it with all the musicians who helped make the history of Arizona country music remarkable, you’d see several familiar faces: Rex Allen. Marty Robbins. Tanya Tucker. Waylon Jennings. But you’d also discover a few forgotten folks, like Billie Maxwell, a cowgirl who cut the first commercial record by an Arizonan in 1929. And if you drove to just a few of the places around the state wrapped in Western lore and connected to country music, you’d be making a long C-shaped drive spanning almost 268 miles, from the Petrified National Forest to near the Mexico border.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Artist Daniel Edlen puts a new spin on vintage vinyl albums. The Gilbert resident painstakingly paints intricate images of music stars on records using a fine brush and white acrylic paint, resulting in amazing and affordable art (each record sells for $350). “I wanted to make them affordable for music lovers,” says Edlen, who has created hundreds of albums featuring everyone from Engelbert Humperdinck to Frank Zappa.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH: What would you do with half a million LEGO pieces? Well, if you’re local LEGO artist David Shaddix, you might make a detailed portrait of Barry Goldwater or an Arizona Cardinals football helmet. There’s little the artist can’t do with LEGOs, which is one reason Shaddix’s work is featured in the exhibition Build! Toy Brick Art at the Heard, a family-friendly show that opened May 24 and connects LEGO lovers to the work of four artists, including Shaddix.
READ IT: Arizona-born artist Ted DeGrazia’s paintings pulse with bold brush strokes and bright blocks of vibrant color. His faceless figures of Native American children and rough-textured landscapes immerse viewers in the Southwest and its culture. But the man behind these paintings remained a mystery to many well past 1982, when he died of cancer. In DeGrazia: The Man and the Myths ($29.95, University of Arizona Press), authors James W. Johnson and Marilyn D. Johnson attempt to construct a comprehensive picture of DeGrazia from mere puzzle pieces – stories in newspapers, magazines, books, a handful of personal papers, and a dozen interviews with peripheral people from DeGrazia’s past. The result is an entertaining profile of a mischievous man who built a wall of privacy around himself while struggling for approval and widespread recognition of his work.
SEE IT: A garbage bag bulging with trash is actually a 250-pound piece of solid marble. A pack of American Spirit cigarettes is really a sculpture composed of foam, plastic, paper, paint and magnets. Such is the mischievous, don’t-believe-your-eyes nature of Lifelike, on view through May 18 in the Steele Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum. Each piece in the exhibition represents an ordinary object recreated through materials like bronze and plastic.