What is art in Phoenix? A short piece compiled from my trip around Downtown Phoenix for Art Detour weekend. Thank you to all the artists, patrons, volunteers, and proprietors who took the time to speak with me.
(shot & cut by perry allen for dpj)
Downtown Phoenix is an ever-changing landscape, but amidst all the developments, bureaucracy, and continual struggle to create an urban core with an authentic sense of place, there is at least one event that has remained a constant feature and lifeblood in Downtown for over 20 years: First Fridays.
Local artist Carol Roque has been a part of this tradition as a vendor at every First Friday since December 2006 when she began selling her work as a young art student. Roque remembers the years of the mid 2000s as a simpler time, when artists gathered in dirt lots along Roosevelt Row, where one man would bring a generator and for ten bucks he’d allow artists to plug their extension cords in so they could light up their booths.
As First Friday continued to grow and spill out into the neighborhood streets the City of Phoenix began to take notice and it wasn’t long before bureaucracy was inserted into the evolution of the monthly event.
Soon paperwork, applications, and licenses became required for artists to display and sell their work.
“The license was easy to get back then. The City helped so I got everything I needed.”
At the age of 25, Roque has been a regular for long enough to remember when such things were not needed.
Her friend and now collaborator, Aldo Jeffery, invited her to show her work at First Friday after he happened to see some portraits she had completed while studying animation at the Art Institute of Phoenix.
He offered her space at his table where she carefully set out her samples for display.
“I was so nervous that I don’t think I said a single word all night.” She may not have said anything but she made $45 from sales of her 5×5 prints that she sold for $5.00 a piece.
She stuck with school and earned a B.A. in Media Arts and Animation, although she never pursued animation. Instead, after graduation she taught herself to oil paint and set out to make a living as a full time artist.
Connecting Through Art
Since childhood, Roque carried notebooks with her which she explains were her closest friends; she filled the pages with drawings and portraits of people for whom she would name and create stories and details to explain their lives.
As a kid she attended 4 different schools before moving from the Los Angeles area to Mesa with her family. “It was easier for me to connect with my paintings than it was for me to make friends.”
The theme that runs through her work is loneliness, a feeling seen in the expressions on the faces of the people she creates. Some of the subjects have distorted faces, some have large noses, all have intense eyes that seem to be pleading for understanding and love. Roque says people comment that the people in her paintings look sad and depressing.
“That caught me off guard to hear. It was a reminder that I’m not the only one who feels sad, other people do too.”
Her first painting was completed in a digital print and ink class where she learned how to paint on a computer. She still uses the computer as a way to map out her visions. Once an idea is created digitally, she is able to choose which one she wants to turn into an oil painting.
“I have to keep focused and imagine what I want. I think through the whole painting digitally, then plan how to turn it into an oil painting. It’s much easier to do it this way because it’s planned out and I’m not just painting blindly. I can plan the composition and the under painting and I don’t have to worry if I’m painting the lighting correctly.”
She said she always admired oil painters and now prefers oil because she can blend colors infinitely, but “oil paint is really dangerous and toxic. My hands used to tingle all the time and I thought that was normal. It’s not. I take precautions and wear gloves now.”
Living an Uncomplicated Life
Her work is shown around town in coffee shops or bars. Earlier this month she had a show at Hair Pollution on McDowell with Jeffery and this month her work is on display at Buffalo Exchange as their Artist of the Month.
She will have a regular gallery on Roosevelt Row in May where she will debut her newest and favorite painting.
“No one has seen it yet and it’s still untitled. It’s a girl with purple lilac hair, you see her back and she’s looking back at you with a lot of pain and emotion in her eyes. It’s intense but pretty when you first see it. There is a heart stitched on her back with a yellow bird on her shoulder holding one end of the string.”
Roque says she’s grateful that her life is uncomplicated at the moment.
“Sometimes I just work inside all day and only ever come out to First Friday. I should probably get out and socialize more. I’ve had a level of success, people recognize my work. The next step is to pay my rent more regularly.”
She acknowledges that during her years participating in First Friday she has witnessed many changes but what hasn’t changed is the interest in the downtown art scene.
“People come for different reasons. There are a lot of teenagers, lots of middle-aged men and women and elderly people. It’s everyone.”
Roque is out every First Friday and Third Friday in front of MADE Art Boutique on Roosevelt Street sharing her work with the Downtown Phoenix community. On Third Friday she draws live and you can get a custom portrait in about 20-30 minutes for only 15 bucks.
Images courtesy of Carol Roque.
Some news items don’t need translation. That’s why DPJ launched the From the Wire series, so we could serve the destinations here by posting information and announcements – in their own words.
All submissions to be exhibited at Artlink’s A.E. England Gallery, March 16-18.
UPDATE: Deadline for entry is
March 7 MARCH 12. Applications can be submitted online or dropped off to After Hours Gallery, located at 116 W. McDowell Rd.
For Art Detour 24, Artlink is inviting all Valley artists to submit their hangable works of art for presentation in a PUBLIC HANGING. The PUBLIC HANGING will be open for view at Artlink’s A.E. England Gallery space in downtown Phoenix during Art Detour, March 16th through 18th.
The PUBLIC HANGING is a way for any artist to have their work shown in an established gallery and exposed to the public during Art Detour, one of the largest art events in Arizona.
Any artist can submit work. The only requirements are that the piece submitted must be no larger than 36”W X 36”H X 12”D, be ready to hang and be self contained. The $25 hanging fee supports Artlink and includes becoming a Friend of Artlink, an annual individual contribution to support First Fridays, gallery openings and more.
Says Mike Oleskow, Artlink President, “Phoenix has an extraordinarily rich artist community, yet many people never have a chance to have their work on display. The PUBLIC HANGING is an exciting way to make it possible for everyone to share their talents – and the small entry fee helps Artlink continue to promote First Fridays and other arts advocacy efforts.”
Works on display at the PUBLIC HANGING will not be for sale and prices will not be listed, but artists’ information will be available for reference so interested viewers can connect with the artists.
To be part of the PUBLIC HANGING, interested artists just need to visit www.artlinkphoenix.com for details and entry forms. Deadline for entry is
March 7 March 12. Drop-off will be at the A.E. Gallery on March 9th & 10th and pick-up is on March 24th.
Artlink is a 501 C-3 non-profit arts advocacy organization, celebrating its 24th year. Major programs of Artlink include Art Detour, support of First Friday, coordination and support of the Trolleys for First Friday, operation of two exhibition spaces for artists in downtown Phoenix and connecting Phoenix businesses and volunteers with the Arts.
The A.E. England Gallery is located at Civic Space Park, 424 North Central Avenue. There is a Metro Light Rail stop next to the Gallery.
Happy First Friday PHX!
Artlink has launched a new website just in time for February First Friday. Check it out here: ArtlinkPhoenix.com
And if you’re heading out tonight, click on the image or link below and you will have the four-page PDF map file downloaded directly to your computer.
Artlink Phoenix is inviting artists, galleries, retail venue owners, and neighborhood arts enthusiasts to the Phoenix Center for the Arts this Sunday, January 29, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Learn how you can participate as a venue or volunteer in Art Detour 24, scheduled for March 17 and 18, 2012. Artlink members will be on hand to share information about First Stop!, Kid’s Detour, Public Hanging, pop-up galleries, destination signage and transportation. Refreshments will be served.
If You Go
What: Informational Meeting for Art Detour 24
Where: Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 North Third Street, Phoenix
When: Sunday, January 29, 1:00 – 3:00 pm