Friday, August 1, 2014

Adventures in Scottsdale.

The Gallery I showed at on Marshall Way

Scottsdale looms on the horizon of the Phoenix art scene. Some see it as a commercial pit of southwest art to be avoided. Others see it as the place to be, where collectors go to buy.
I started showing my work in the 1980s when there were few venues for artists in Phoenix. Basically there were Alwun House 11 East Ashland and Mars Gallery which would open its walls to non- Hispanic artists once a year with their La Phoeniquera juried show. I had the opportunity to exhibit at each of these but Scottsdale was the mecca one strived for. There were only a few galleries handeling local contemporary talent though. There was Marilyn Buttler who had Fritz Scholder, Mark McDowell, Christopher Pelley and Earl Linderman. Elaine Horwitch with David Kessler, Bill Schenck, John Dawson, Ka Graves and others. There was Susanne Brown Who leaned more towards the Southwest with Merrill Mahafeey, Joe Baker, Anne Coe, Howard Post and the likes. Eventually Lisa Sette would move her operation to Scottsdale from Tempe.

I loved to go to the Thursday night openings, especially at Horwich and Buttler which were fun events where you could chat with Fritz Scholder and the like. There would sometimes be film crews making documentaries about featured artists. One time KAET covered a Linderman opening live. All making it seem a real art scene to be part of. Scottsdale Center for the arts did exhibits of local artists back then, before they split away and became SMoCA. After spending an evening in front of The Joy Tash Gallery visiting with Bill Schenck and Mark Hobley I decided to give that gallery a shot. I’m not sure why I picked Tash’s gallery, the work  it handled was nothing like what I was doing. In my naivety I rang up and asked to have my work looked at. I was granted an interview. I showed up with slides and a few paintings. Ms. Tash looks at my stuff, Is very gracious but in the end tells me she granted me a meeting because on the phone she thought I said I was Loren Willis. The assistant director walked me out to my car and said she really liked my work. That was a nice consolation.

Next Leslie Levy Gallery had a juried show titled “Contemporary Critters”. I entered and was accepted. I was excited that I was going to be in a Scottsdale gallery. I went to the opening and the gallery was full of art hung Salon style. The walls were so crowded it seemed the jurors must have accepted every submission. Hardly anyone was there except for a few of the artists in the show. Anne Coe who was in the show was there for about a minute before taking off for the Horwitch Gallery where the real party was going on. I soon took off myself having the same let down feeling you have the day after your first Psychedelic experience.

A couple of years ago I went to Scottsdale, not having been in some time, to see if there might be any opportunities. Walking down Marshal Way I stopped into a place and the owner told me to send in some images so I did. I was invited to show but it turned out to be a gallery where you pay a monthly fee to hang. I went ahead and showed for a month at which time the landlord locked the doors because the people running the place and a boutique next door were behind on the rent. In the end I and several other artists had to come up with the back rent to get our works out. We were told by the gallery owners they would pay us back, but I’ve yet to see it.

Soon after that I was checking galleries on Main Street and in one place the owner told me to email some images. I did and was invited to show. This place was hung floor to ceiling side by side, having the appearance of a thrift store. I remembered what David Kessler once said to me at that, it was better to not be with a gallery than to be in the wrong one. Having already made a few mistakes in this regard I decided to heed those words and pass this time.
Scottsdale is not what it once was. Many of those older galleries have closed. Ka Graves said to me one time, that her view was, When Elane Hrwitch died the soul went out of Scottsdale. 

More recently in Scottsdale, Lisa Sette and Bentley have left, others have closed. Bonner David and Gibert are holding down the contemporary fort. Earl Linderman Who was once a Scottsdale star is represented by Wilde Meyer but you have to ask to see his work. Sadly another Gallery that was lost long ago was Ivan Karp's OK Harris West on Marshall Way.

Scottsdale doesn’t have the panache or give me the desire to show there that it once did. I just wish Phoenix would have more “real” galleries that represent and push artists’ careers forward, especially mine... ;)


  1. Very interesting, it was like deja vu to read the names of 80s galleries and artists. I was in college at this time.