Pleased to Meet You

Stephen Paul, maker of Whiskey Del Bac at Hamilton Distillers, talks serious hats and his love affair with mesquite. By Joan Calcagno. Photos courtesy of Hamilton Distillers.

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Early bird or night owl? “I’m an early bird. I generally wake up at 5.30 and then, of course, I start to fade at 9 o’clock. We’ve been going full-tilt here. It’s been really intense but it’s all been build-out and equipment hook-up. Full-tilt will mean something different here in a few days – we’ll be going into full production.”

Favorite accessory? “My hats. Being a desert person and abusing my skin my whole life, about seven years ago I started wearing hats everywhere. Winter hats are more fun than summer hats because they’re felt – they’re more serious. You can do things with them that are harder to do in straw, like shape them.”

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Favorite faux pas? “Would be hard to choose from because there are so many. My wife Elaine always says she needs to carry a portable jaws-of-life to extract my foot from my mouth at any given moment.”

hamilton3 Who is your dream customer? “It’s someone who is curious about the world, loves single malt whiskey and appreciates the place that is the Sonoran desert.

"Curious people are always really fun to talk to. If you’re interested, it makes you interesting. Single malt whiskey-loving is sort of obvious. The relationship to the Sonoran desert is - I love this place. And what we’re doing really has a sense of being from a place in terms of the mesquite.

"I’ve always loved mesquite. We’ve had this long relationship with it from when we were making mesquite furniture at Arroyo Design. I’d take my mesquite scraps home to barbeque with. Elaine and I are both scotch drinkers and one evening she said ‘Why couldn’t we malt barley over mesquite instead of peat like they do in Scotland?’ So I ordered a little five-gallon still and it kept going and kept tuning out well and one thing led to another and here we are.”

If I weren’t an owner of Hamilton Distillers I would… “I have so many interests. I know I’d be busy at something. I can’t stop. If I was retired I’d be gardening and reading and exploring Arizona and beyond – traveling, still learning. That’s what I’d be doing! Still learning! Which is what I’m doing here.”

If I could change one thing I would… “I would look for ways to decrease the insolation that people have. I would expose people to more cultures than their own - more variation and diversity than they’re used to. I would try to get people to broaden their experiences so as to understand each other better.”

What do U.S. and Hamilton Distillers do that is different than traditional whisky making? “There’s more exploration – a lot bigger sense of adventure in America. Americans are like that, right? We are not afraid to fail. So when we have ideas, we’re free to pursue them without fear of falling down. We know we can get back up and start running again. That’s kind of uniquely American. So now there’s a whiskey made with barley malted over mesquite smoke instead of peat. There’s a distiller in Texas doing a blue corn whiskey. There are incredible gins out there using local botanicals. It’s just really exploded. In Scotland they’re making Scotch. There are different levels of smoke, but there’s basically just Scotch.

hamilton4  "What really sets [Hamilton Distillers] apart is that we malt our own barley. There are only five distilleries out of hundreds in the country that malt their own barley. We had to because it’s the mesquite smoke [that makes it really unique]. And we continue through the process doing it all in-house. It’s very craft. And very authentic.”

* You can purchase Hamilton Distillers’ Whiskey Del Bac at Plaza Liquors at 2642 N. Campbell, The Rumrunner, AJ’s Fine Foods, and Whole Foods at Oracle and Ina. To keep up with them, follow Hamilton on Facebook and subscribe to the newsletter on their website. To tour the distillery contact: info@hamiltondistilleries or (520) 628-9244

Pleased to Meet You

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Mel Dominguez at work. Photo by Mochi Gregurich.

Mel Dominguez, Tucson artist and creator of this year's All Souls Procession poster image, talks about her magic hat, the nostalgia of riding the railway, and speaking for the desconocidos. By Joan Calcagno

Early bird or night owl? “Both. I can’t sleep. I’ve had my episodes with death. I have chronic pancreatitis and it hit me at the age of 29. It exploded. And it was critical. You take medication or they put you to sleep so I had all these dreams. Now that I’m awake, I can’t just let this time go, you know? The essence of time. I’m fixed on it now. I take my siestas – catch a cat-nap in the middle of the day - and then I get going again. I feel blessed to be here and awake.”

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Photo courtesy of Melissa Brown-Dominguez

Favorite accessory? “My hat. I didn’t wear it today. My wife told me ‘Hey, take it off!’ because I’m always wearing it to work and at home. It was created by one of my old-time friends from when I used to paint graffiti. I’m always wearing that hat. It’s like my Felix the Cat magic bag – I pull it off and grab ideas out of it.”

Favorite faux pas? “One time, Jehovah’s witnesses came knocking and I opened the door because I love talking to people. As I’m answering the door, my neighbor who lives across the street – he’s about five or six – he opens his door too and yells ‘Hey Mel, you’re not supposed to answer the door!’. Me and the Jehovah’s witnesses are just standing there looking at each other - I wanted to evaporate. Like, beam me up somebody! He’s a great little kid, but that’s my favorite faux pas – he actually said that out loud.”

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Artwork courtesy of Melissa Brown-Dominguez.

Who is your dream customer? “The people here in Tucson just exemplify that. They’re just awesome. I don’t even know anymore, I’ve been able to do so many awesome things. [As to a specific customer -] Nickelodeon, if they were to come to me, or a toy company and say ‘Hey, Mel, we love this little character, let’s rock ‘n roll’ or Adult Swim or anything - I just want to share and have people laugh.”

If I weren’t an artist I would… “Oh, I’d be a train engineer. Yaahhh. They get to travel the country and bring things to people and take people to other places. You sit up in the front and it’s the biggest motor you could ever ride and the biggest horn. It’s a dream - the railroad – it can go on and on. It’s about dreams and people and wanderlust – the hobos who hopped the trains. It’s a thing. You can wash dishes for two weeks and then ride on, you know?”

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Photo by Mochi Gregurich.

If I could change one thing I would… “Even if it was tough to deal with at that time and moment, it really made me who I am right now. But if there was one thing – change the relationship with my dad’s family. Maybe as a young person, maybe write more. But as a young kid you don’t know how easy that is - that four miles isn’t that far. That you could walk or bicycle to be closer to my dad’s family – [and not lose touch].”

What does the skeleton imagery in your work mean to you? “I started utilizing that image because I’ve done Day of the Dead [graphics] before in east Los Angeles, but when I came here seven years ago, it was such a shell shock. In LA I worked in the shops with migrants making clothes. But when we came to Arizona I didn’t see them alive. I saw them dead. So celebrating Day of the Dead here in Arizona, it meant something totally different for me.

"And I saw a lot of artists painting Day of the Dead – which is cool and awesome - but as a person of Mexican descent and being an eye-witness to what goes on here on the border, I feel obligated to really explain and help people understand what’s going on here – because I didn’t feel right, I mean how do you take money [for that]?

"But’s what’s cool is that this year at Pop Cycle for the November 7th show called Mixtec Tux, I created a t-shirt design and it’s got a little woman on there and little cross and it says ‘Desconocido’, which means ‘unknown”. So many are unknown because of their skeletal remains. The proceeds from the design I’m donating to Derechos Humanos' Missing Migrant Project. How cool to be an artist in this time. I feel I’ve been given a purpose as an artist. Not just to be an artist in this community of Tucson but to speak for the people that come here to better their lives.”

* Find out more about Mel and see more of her artwork on her website and for sale on the walls of the Tucson Tamale Company’s three locations. Follow her on Facebook.

* The Mixtec Tux show takes place at Pop Cycle, Friday November 7th, 7-9pm.

Pleased to Meet You

Architect Nathan Colkitt, a UA alum who will return to Tucson as part of Tucson Fashion Week, talks empathetic design, the evolution of men’s fashion and his eternal optimism. By Joan Calcagno.

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Nathan Colkitt, who will be part of Tucson Fashion Week.

Early bird or night owl? “You know, I love the morning and I think I’m an early bird, but I definitely enjoy staying up too. I work the best at night and am the most creative at night but there’s nothing like the morning and the sun coming up. That’s a really special time and I enjoy that. I enjoy personal time in the morning and at night I enjoy socializing, being creative, going out and being around people. But the morning is definitely for me. It’s like a special communion with the day.”

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The Cartel Coffee Lab in Phoenix, one of Colkitt & Co's designs. Photo by Cheryl Ramsay.

Favorite accessory? “I really love cufflinks. I think those are a really fun accessory. Right now I’m into stuff from the 1920s and 30s and so I’ve been collecting gold cufflinks. I’ve got some very cool ones that I’m really happy with. They’re really special and delicate. Jewelry, especially men’s jewelry, has become so chunky – it’s become so big, which is cool and I can appreciate that, but men’s cufflinks used to be so elegant and nice and not overdone. I like wearing them with a contemporary shirt that’s cut very classical.”

Favorite faux pas? “I have a lot of unfavorite ones. Favorite faux pas? That’s so tough. But if you take it back to design, I really think great design is all about empathy. The greatest designers have to have the utmost empathy for the client’s situation to be able to truly understand what somebody wants. So it really bothers me when there is a void and people don’t really try to understand. It makes it really hard when you don’t connect."

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One of Colkitt & Co's residential designs. Photo by Jim Bartsch and Cheryl Ramsay.

Who is your dream customer? “I like to say that I don’t really have one. I try to be in the moment as much as possible. I like to approach design as though I’m six years old and have never experienced this before. So when I meet any person that is a potential client, I love that experience of meeting them for the first time. I feel every client is better and better. So I try not to have a favorite or expectations. For me, that’s worked out really well in the sense that our next customer, our next project, always is the best one.”

If I weren’t an architect I would… “Be on ‘permacation’ - permanently on vacation. Any kind of down, beach-time I can get. I definitely opt for that. I try to visit friends and family all over the place. You have to make time for that. I would literally go insane if I didn’t take time off once-in-a-while.”

If I could change one thing I would… “I’m very idealistic and sometimes, you know, your greatest strength is your biggest weakness in life. I’m so optimistic that sometimes it’s hard to get grounded and back to reality because you over-estimate how wonderful and easy life is. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to relate to people more and not think everything is so wonderful.”

nathcolkitt2 What or who are you seen wearing the most? “I usually dress pretty casually and try to fit in most days. But I do like dressing up probably more than the average person. My favorite thing to wear is men’s fashion from the 1930s. There were so many different options and styles, but there was a lot of restraint. It was a really interesting time. Similar to the 70s in the sense that anytime you see a really bad economy, you see everything under the sun, and yet there is a lot of conservatism at some level. Wide lapels and generous proportions came back in the 70s, inspired partially by the 30s. It was one of the best times for men’s fashion.”

*As part of Tucson Fashion Week’s Launch Party, Nathan will judge the Designer Competition where each fashion designer will create a garment inspired by a Colkitt & Co architecture structure. Thursday October 16th at Connect Coworking, 33 South 5th Ave. Tickets available here.

*Find out more about Nathan and his San Diego and New York-based firm Colkitt & Co. at colkitt.com.

 

Pleased to Meet You

Celia Bertoia, daughter of iconic furniture designer Harry Bertoia, dishes on her famous father. By Joan Calcagno.

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Celia as a baby with her father Harry. Photo courtesy of Celia Bertoia.

Early bird or night owl? “Definitely I am an early bird. My morning is very important to me. It’s when I do my meditation, I get some exercise, I have my cup of tea, and a substantial breakfast. I have about two hours’ worth of personal routine before working.  I do my best work in the morning also. My husband likes to rise later, so it’s my private time and very valuable.”

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Celia today, author of a new book about her father Harry. Photo courtesy of Harry Bertoia Foundation.

Favorite accessory? “I may be kind of boring, but I love my landline phone. I can hear better and it’s stable. I’m right at my desk so I can take notes or look on the computer if I need to. You know, it just works well for me and I don’t think I’m going to give it up for years.”

Favorite faux pas? “Of course I can think of many errors I’ve made throughout the years, but, probably one is calling people by the wrong name. Sometimes l look at someone and they just look like a Linda or a Mark and that just keeps coming to my brain. Of course they’re usually so polite that they don’t say anything and I don’t realize it till later. But it makes me vulnerable and that’s always a good thing.”

Who is your dream customer? “My overall mission is to further the legacy of Harry Bertoia. So what comes to mind for me is someone who loves Harry Bertoia’s work, who is a big fan, who has brilliant ideas about marketing and promotion. Someone who would support the Foundation and help with their expertise and finances. That’s my ideal person.”

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Harry Bertoia's Diamond Chair. Photo courtesy of the Harry Bertoia Foundation.

If I could change one thing I would… “That’s so tough to put into one synopsis. But I would want it to be something like requiring people to be honest and loving. If they could do that, so many other things would fall into place. If we could just be right where we are in life – and not try to make it sound better or different – just be who we are – and be kind to each other – what a different world that would be.”

Tell us something about your dad we didn't know.  "He was very humble and had a sort of eastern philosophy where the self was not that important. He didn’t even sign his work – or title them. He felt the viewer was more important than the creator – the viewer looks at a piece of art and finds meaning for themselves But he did have quite a temper. His anger would come out in interesting ways. If he was mad about something he would come home and he would do yard work with a vengeance. He’d cut down trees or dig huge holes or throw rocks around. That was his way of venting his anger.”

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Harry Bertoia was known for his ergonomically designed furniture. Metal was a favorite material. Photo courtesy of the Harry Bertoia Foundation.

* As part of Tucson Modernism Week Celia will giving a lecture, The Life and Work of Harry Bertoia, Saturday, October 4th, 11:30 to 12:30, Faith Lutheran Church, 3925 E. 5th St. Tickets available here.

Her book The Life and Work of Harry Bertoia: The Man, the Artist, the Visionary is due out in March 2015. Find out more about Harry Bertoia and his work on the Harry Bertoia foundation website.      

Pleased to Meet You

Darcy Landis has the enviable job title of 'forager' for Whole Foods, which just opened its new store in northwest Tucson. Here, Darcy talks food nerds, inappropriate giggling, and burning the candle at both ends. By Joan Calcagno. Cover photo courtesy of Whole Foods.

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Darcy Landis, food forager. Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

Early bird or night owl? “I’m more a - there’s a scientific name for it - but I’m a dusk and dawn person. I like to get up way too early before the sun is up and have quiet time by myself and then get the day going or do the total opposite – stay up late. I have small children so that makes you an ‘all-day, all-night’ person. So whenever I have the time to reflect – that’s that pre-dawn time. Whether I get up really early or stay up really late, I love that time. The desert smells good, it’s kind of cool still.”

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One of Darcy's favorite water bottles, by Liberty

Favorite accessory? “It’s going to have to be my water bottle. I’m water bottle obsessed. I currently have a Liberty water bottle, which is very nice because it is made from a steel works in the United States. It’s my go-to bottle. It has enamel inside, so there’s no ‘off-taste’. But I’d really like to get a Kleen Kanteen. There’s also the Lifefactory which is an all-glass bottle. Or a Hydro Flask...”

Favorite faux pas? “Laughing inappropriately. If you choose your favorite by what you do the most, I’m an inappropriate laugher. I’ve been known to laugh at a funeral. Maybe it’s an icebreaker, I don’t know. I’m a giggler. I’m definitely the person that disrupted high school by giggling.”

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Whole Foods' latest store on Tucson's northwest side. Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

Who is your dream customer? "I started in the stores as a bagger in 1998. I would love to bag up some groceries for Dolly Parton. But my favorite customer is two different ones. One is a person who is doing everything new. They haven’t really thought about what they eat before and now they’re thinking about what they eat and everything is new and exciting. Like they ask ‘What’s this?’ and it’s hummus. The other one is the super food-nerd who wants to know all the details, like what temperature the oven is to get the crust on this bread. I love that because I know that stuff and where’s the fun in knowing if no one ever asks!”

If I weren’t a Whole Foods forager I would… “I feel like I wouldn’t do anything else. This job is made for me. It’s kind of perfect. But if I had gone another way, I think I might have gone into nursing because it is another way to care for people.”

If I could change one thing I would… “Oh. Not war and famine? Like something more fun? Because famine would be a good thing to change. I guess I’d like everyone to be curious. A lot of things would be more fun and a lot of bad things would go away if everyone was just a little more curious.”

Tell us a little more about foraging. “There is one characteristic that a forager has to have: to be easily excited. You have to see the potential in the thing and be so excited about it the whole way through the process so that you can midwife it to the market and get it to where it needs to be.

"I kind of get excited about everything. You could name a product that we carry and I can tell you about when it was in the approval process and how excited I was about it. Some of the stuff I’ve been really excited to bring to the market in the past was local grains and flours, local beans, because there was so much history in Arizona with those agricultural crops and being able to reintroduce them to the public.

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Whole Foods' new Oracle Road store. Photo courtesy of Tucson Foodie

"Right now we’re working with the first meadery in Arizona. It’s a product that customers don’t have a lot of exposure to. But the market is kind of already there; people love to try new beers and wines and mead is kind of an in-between. It’s basically a wine, but not a grape wine, and people associate it with beer and ale – like the precursor to beer."

* The newly refurbished and expanded Whole Foods store at Ina and Oracle opened August 27th.  Send Darcy ideas for new products at darcy.landis@wholefoods.com.

 

Pleased to Meet You

Curtis McCrary, executive director of the Rialto Theatre and its brand new R Bar, talks owls, '90s commercials and other "worthless shit". (His words, people, not ours...) Cover photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star.

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Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star

Early bird or night owl? "Night owl, naturally. First of all, owls are much cooler than other birds, not to mention wiser. Secondly, night is where it's at. That's when the interesting stuff happens. There was this crappy commercial from the early '90s that had a jingle that went "I move better in the night" and that's always stayed with me, both for its truth but also because I have the uncanny ability to forever remember the most worthless shit.

"It's pretty much a necessity to be a night owl in this realm of endeavor. There's a big part of me that craves the regularity of an early-bird schedule, but never so much that I'd trade it."

Favorite accessory? "I gotta go with a smartphone, or more specifically an iPhone. It's funny, early on in the life of the iPhone there was lots of rhetoric about how people wanted them so as to be fashionable, trendy, etcetera, which ignored the incredible usefulness of the device. It's a truly remarkable thing to have an information resource more powerful and useful than the Library of Alexandria at your fingertips at all times. We are the first generation in history with this ability, and along with the internet itself, it's a game-changer in ways we've only barely begun to understand.

iphone "With all that said, I agree that there are downsides to people living a device-mediated existence. There is much merit in being present, and not constantly distracted by the ephemeral goings-on of the virtual world. I am selective about when I give my device attention. It's how you use it and what you make of it. This is true of all things."

Favorite faux pas? "Does it make me unimaginative to say that I try to avoid faux pas wherever possible and therefore why would I have a favorite? As a person who is, to put it charitably, easily annoyed, I try to keep my own faux pas to a minimum in an attempt to be considerate of others. So I guess "innocent" ones that only impact the false-stepper and not other people are considerably more tolerable (like, say, someone putting their shirt on inside-out).

"Here's an example of one I hate, which is not what you asked, but sue me: You're in traffic, signs announce a lane closure, considerate people get over as soon as possible, but jerks commit the faux pas of thinking that it's no big deal to zoom up and cut in at the last minute, failing to realize (or care) that that's why traffic is backing up. Maybe that's more of a dick move than a faux pas. We should ask Larry David."

Who is your dream customer? "I guess I don't dream about customers! Except that nightmare that servers have, and if you've ever waited tables, you know this one -- you dream you have forgotten a table in your section for an hour, but instead of leaving or getting your attention, they're just super pissed at you. But I think good customers, patronizing an establishment that they either like or think they might like, should assume good faith on the part of the establishment until they have substantial reason to think otherwise.

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Photo by Gillian Drummond

"I think the tendency of people to slag businesses on Yelp or other crowdsourced review sites is rather unfortunate. I believe in voting with your feet when you don't like a place or have a bad experience. So I guess that means that my "dream customer" is someone who is there because they have an appreciation of what the establishment is, and does, and they patronize your place with regularity, and if they have an issue or a problem, they tell you about it directly."

If I weren't executive director of the Rialto Theatre I would... "Honestly, I have no idea. I would more than likely be working in the live music biz in some fashion, but that's far from a certainty. I'm not sure what else I'm qualified to do that I would find tolerable. It's not a big list. I have a long-held fantasy about being a helicopter pilot like T.C. from Magnum P.I. (how's that for a contemporary reference?) but I think at my age that ship has sailed, so to speak."

If I could change one thing I would... "Yes, absolutely. Or more than one thing, even!"

* When he's not being cheeky and/or staying up late, Curtis McCrary heads up the historic Rialto Theatre on Congress Street in downtown Tucson, originally a 1920s vaudeville venue and now a live concert spot. This month sees the opening of the Rialto's spin-off business, R Bar. You can find it around the corner from the theatre on S. Herbert Avenue. 

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The R Bar, the Rialto's spin-off pub, is scheduled to open July 4th. Photo by Gillian Drummond

 

 

Pleased to Meet You

Tucson singer songwriter Sahara Starr on the joys of portable headphones, the limits of texting, and her second skin. By Joan Calcagno. Cover photo by Neil Peters Fotografie

Early bird or night owl?  “I’d have to say I’m more of a night owl because it’s easier to be creative and I’m more inspired in the evenings. There’s just something about the quiet of the night that helps reduce the noise in my head. I’m able to think clearly and work more efficiently. That being said, I do love the mornings. Even though I prefer staying up late, most days I have to get up early. A typical morning for me is waking up at 6 am, which is no fun!”

ultrasone headphones Favorite accessory?  “Portable headphones. You can listen to music anywhere without disrupting others. And it works in the other direction as well when the person is sitting next to you, say on an airplane. With headphones on, it’s the best ‘do not disturb’ sign. It keeps the Chatty Cathys away. You can zone out and enjoy your hopefully turbulence-free flight in peace. My favorite brand is Ultrasone. I use those in my home studio and my portable Ultrasone Pycos everywhere else. Sound quality is especially important to me as I'm always checking to hear what the mix of my new songs sounds like and Ultrasone, in my opinion, is just superior to any brand I've tried."

Favorite faux pas? “Text messaging. It is wonderfully impersonal, but people use it for everything now – from alerting friends of their newborn baby’s arrival and even their grandmother’s funeral, which I had happen once. I enjoy text messaging because it’s more convenient, but I try not to use it for the big stuff. That whole grandma’s funeral thing was like ‘Whoa’. I would have expected a call for that one!”  

Who is your dream audience?I guess it would be people who listen to the songs as a whole and if the song is lacking in lyrics or melody, it would be someone who listens and sees the whole picture of the song. Also people who like to dance to it and sing it as loud as they can and allow themselves to be affected by it and allow it to move them.”

If I weren’t a singer/song-writer, I would… “I think I would be lost because I love to write. That is my comfort zone. So I guess since I like to write and express myself and tell stories through songs, I’d probably be a writer of some other sort - maybe dabble in fiction. I’ve taken some writing workshops and it is somewhat of a second skin for me because I enjoy it so much. I love building the narrative and developing complex characters.”

If I could change one thing I would… “If I had the power, I don’t think I could change just one thing. I don’t think I could stop at just one because there are just so many things, such as racism, discrimination, poverty, violence, and there is so much injustice in the world. So if it had to be one thing, it would be all these things as a collective whole. And hopefully inspire hope in the fact that we can change and that we can work collectively to one day eliminate all these things.”

What you don't know about my new CD is.... "There's a hidden track that's not listed on the track list. It's a rendition of "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones. I recorded it with [photographer] Dominic Bonuccelli. He played piano and accompanied me on vocals. He's truly a Jack of all trades!"

* Find Sahara’s new CD Pretty Day or download tracks on her website.  You can listen to Wild Horses below. Follow Sahara on Facebook here .    

Pleased to Meet You

Is beauty innate? Is art in the eye of the beholder? Tucson artist Wil Taylor addresses all of this and more. By Kaleigh Shufeldt. Cover photo by Tom Willett.

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Wil Taylor. Photo by Tom Willett

Early bird or night owl? “I’m a nine to five kind of person. I don’t wake up too early and I don’t go to bed really late. I work so long that I’m kind of in that groove. I enjoy early morning and then early evening because of the temperature, the cars aren’t so loud yet, its nice, more relaxed.”

Favorite accessory? “Mechanical pencils. Love mechanical pencils. I have always liked them, ever since I can remember. They are so precise. I learned in the 80s, before computers, how to draw. I took every drafting class at my university. I guess I’m an old school master drafter, I do things by hand. Anything to do with drafting, drafting tables, templates, rulers - I love that stuff. You can do so much with them, you can make so many things. You can do anything with them.”

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Artwork courtesy of Wil Taylor

Favorite faux pas? “I have a masters in art education from the U of A and I retired from teaching art in Tucson Unified School District. I decided that I wanted to go back to get a print making degree and when I enrolled in the program, one of the things they asked me was if I made ‘pretty art.’ Apparently I did, my art must have been pretty. I've heard that term ‘pretty art’ not just one time, like it was some personal anomaly, but many times from different professors. I was a little bit perplexed by the whole pretty art thing. What does that mean?”

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Artwork courtesy of Wil Taylor

Who is your dream customer? “I meet them all the time. I've sold a lot of art over the years. Somebody who can see what the message is in my art or see me through my art or see themselves. Somebody that can see what it is, what it’s about past a surface level, getting into spiritual things or dreams.”

If I weren't an artist I would be a... “Forest ranger. I've worked for the forest service. I grew up in wilderness in the northern mountain of Washington. Nature lover, that’s kind of me. Something where there’s a lot of peace.

"Or I’d be a gardener. I plant bird attractable plants and trees. Datura is my favorite plant. They bloom at night. It’s got all these buds on it and they attract sphinx moths and hawks moths that fly like hummingbirds. It is so beautiful and it smells amazing.

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Artwork courtesy of Wil Taylor

“I’m really interested in taking scientific illustration right now and kind of evolving it into more of a graphic representation. Drawing plants and animals, the parts and the pieces or scenes involving their behavior. It’s a whole genre of art that I think is definitely understated. It has its own circles.”

If I could change one thing I would... “I would love for people to start to see art as an instrument of beauty; that would be good for everybody – for the world, for communities. When it comes to music, violins are the instrument of beauty or guitars. It’s easy to see where the boundaries are or what it’s for, with art it’s a little more difficult. I don’t really agree that art is necessarily in the eye of the beholder. While it’s partially true, it is not the truth. I don’t know anybody that hates flowers or thinks they’re ugly. Beauty is innate, it has truth in it. Everybody has the capacity to make things beautiful. It’s interesting that all the other disciplines in art, whether it’s dance or music or movie making, they have certain kinds of guidelines or boundaries that you have to meet to be successful. With visual art people think anybody can do it. I think you have to have some kind of talent or skill at it.”

* Wil Taylor is a Tucson-based artist. Check out his website at wiltaylor.com. From April 5th to May 29th, Delectables, 533 N. 4th Ave, will have  an art gallery of Wil’s work. 

* Wil was recently nominated for a 2014 Lumies Arts & Business Award. To find out more, or for a ticket to this year's awards ceremony on Friday June 6th, visit  www.TucsonPimaArtsCouncil.org or call 520.624.0595 x10

 

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Artwork courtesy of Wil Taylor

Pleased to Meet You

Leading up to the Arizona International Film Festival, Tucson actor, filmmaker and reviewer Brendan Guy Murphy talks intentional faux pas, ramming whaling boats, and respect. By Joan Calcagno.

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Brendan Guy Murphy. Photo by Sergio Kardenas

Early bird or night owl? “I’m predominately a night owl, but it kind of comes and goes. That’s just part of being a Gemini – and depending on what work is happening at the moment. I mean, I love mornings but I love sleep even more, so I do lean more towards night owl. My girlfriend and I live together and she works kind of normal hours so for us to spend time together, it helps dictate when we go to bed - we want to go to bed together.”

Favorite accessory? “It used to be watches, but I think the cellphone has killed that industry a little bit. Now I really enjoy glasses. So far, I have three pairs – two regular and one pair prescription sunglasses. I’m fighting hard not to get any more!”

Favorite faux pas? “I kind of feel like I’m a walking faux pas. I am always saying something inappropriate, but not mean-spirited. For me, it’s more of a disarming thing – it allows me to break into a new situation and allows me to connect with somebody much more quickly. Intentional faux pas - just little jabs. I think you can tell who you can do that with. It’s an ice-breaker and cutting through the bullshit very quickly.”

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A self-portrait of Brendan with his girlfriend, Dallas Thomas. Photo by Brendan Guy Murphy

If I weren’t an actor/reviewer/producer I would… “If I stayed in the arts, and went back in time, I would be an opera singer or photographer for National Geographic. If not in the arts, I would want to do something to help preserve wildlife – like join a vessel that rams whaling boats or some other very active participation. I was so captivated by the guy who was one of the originators of Greenpeace and then broke off, bought a boat. They put themselves in between whaling vessels and whales – spears flying over their heads. I thought ‘Now that’s really putting your money where your mouth is!’ Something that drives me – that I want to make another short film about – is empathy, decency and respect for wildlife. Nothing moves me more.”

If I could change one thing I would… “The idealist [in me] would wish for a re-start button for the world, and the U.S., since that’s where I’m living. I think there are institutions and laws that perpetuate racism, sexism and homophobia and wealth disparity. Life is challenging enough without ignorant human-made tremendous hurtles to overcome as well. With a re-start, I wouldn’t put everything in a small group’s hands. There would be a level playing field, with everyone having as much power and respect and a voice as everyone else.”

What's your involvement with this year's Arizona International Film Festival? “I reviewed about 30 films for the Arizona International Film Festival to help the organizers make decisions about what films should be included. I try to become the film viewer that I would like other film viewers to be. For some festivals, reviewers only watch the first minute and half of a short film or the first fifteen minutes of a feature film and make a decision. But I know the work that goes into [making a film]. It can be difficult, but I watched every film I was given at least once all the way through and sometimes two or three times if I was on the fence about something. It can be hard not to have preconceived notions, because you’ve heard about [a film] but good reviewers allow themselves to be taken somewhere unexpected.”

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Late Spring, a film from South Korea, will be screened at this year's Arizona International Film Festival

What film will you not be missing at this year's Arizona International Film Festival? “Some of the films I reviewed I really want to see on the big screen. One will be showing opening night of the festival. It’s a South Korean feature film: Late Spring. It’s an interesting story about a man with a physical ailment who is somewhat catatonic because he cannot do sculpture anymore. His wife looks to find him a muse. It’s not just about his rehabilitation or the love his wife has for him, it says a lot about Korean society and the family unit. It hit me on deeper levels every ten minutes. And it’s beautifully shot.”

Favorite cinematic moment? “I’m a huge fan of Stanley Tucci. I got to meet him briefly. James Redford, Robert Redford’s son, made a movie here called Spin and I was cast as Stanley Tucci’s brother. I didn’t have any scenes with him; I die in the beginning. I wanted to be there longer so I asked if I could be a stand-in so I could be around for the whole film, waiting for a moment.

"One day Stanley Tucci came up to me and asked for a cigarette and I thought ‘Here’s that moment’. [We talked] about his movie Big Night - it was his casting, he wrote it, produced it, those are all his friends in it - and the cinematic moment at the end when there’s not a word spoken and the brothers come back together in the kitchen and are quietly eating eggs made in olive oil together and they pat each other on the back and hug a little as if to say ‘big fight - we don’t agree on these things, but we’re brothers’. I’ve never made eggs in butter again.”

* Find all the details about this year's Arizona International Film Festival, April 11-27, here. Brendan will be appearing in the festival in the short film Sheltered Love. He will begin shooting Blood Widow, the first feature film for his company Murphy Speaking Films, this fall.

* Want to go to the film fest's opening party? We're giving away two sets of tickets!

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Brendan in the short film One Foot In by University of Arizona seniors Alexis B. Preston (director) and Cooper James (cinematographer). Photo courtesy of Alexis B. Preston and Cooper James.

 

 

 

 

Pleased to Meet You

Bisbee artist Brenna Curry on steel, heels and spitting (the latter is David Bowie's fault). By Kaleigh Shufeldt. Photos courtesy of Brenna Curry.

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Brenna Curry was a professional photographer. Now she works with stainless steel in her studio in Bisbee, AZ.

Early bird or night owl? “Definitely a night owl. My dad was a night owl, my mom was a night owl. It is just easier. It's quiet. I don’t get bothered by people or phone calls. I’ve always been nocturnal. When the sun comes up, I don’t like that. I feel like a vampire. The sun is fine, but I am not a morning person.”

Favorite accessory? “Tools.  I use power tools - and in particular a Dremel rotary tool - to etch into the metal I work with, to give it layers and depth. I first started using it a long time ago; I just recently started using it with my art. I use it to burnish the metal.

brennacurry1 "Stainless steel is a very hard metal to work with, and most metal artists do not work with stainless. I was hand sanding it, and [the pieces] are beautiful hand sanded but I needed a little bit more power. Someone introduced me to this little air tool disk, so I drilled a hole and cut the back off this little disk and put it on the back of my little Dremel.

brennacurry3 “Metal just came along. I am a professional photographer by trade and I was in California and I accidentally got my camera wet. I had to wait until I could find a camera and I needed to feed my soul and I had this metal laying around. I came home from work and I squeezed some paint on it, squeezed some water and some oil. I came back a couple weeks later and I thought ‘Wow, this is cool. I might be able to do something with this.’ So there it began.”

Favorite faux pas? “Spitting. It’s bad, but if I have to spit, I’m going to spit. I won’t spit on people’s sidewalk. David Bowie said ‘You gotta love a woman that could hock a good loogie.’ What do I do a lot? I spit.”

Who is your dream customer? “The dream customer is the little girl who came in and spent about an hour with her mom talking about art and the next day she came in with her birthday money and bought one of those bottle clusters that I make. And she already knew she was going to put her beach glass in the bottle. Those are the favorite customers. That will be part of her for many years and could quite possibly be part of who she becomes. That simple moment, you can touch other people’s lives.”

brennacurry4 If I weren’t an artist I would... “I already did all of it. I was never really a dreamer, I was more of a doer. I was a professional photographer by trade. I went to school for commercial photography. I was also a makeup artist and a graphic artist. I did head shots, I did model portfolios, I took shots of every golf course in the state. I was also a stagehand. But this is what I would be. This is it.

"I knew I would be a photographer when I was very young. I knew I was going to be an artist, period. If I wasn’t an artist I would be crazy. Art is the guarantee of sanity.”

If I could change one thing I would... “I would change my feet, because my feet hurt. I would change my shoes. Bisbee is a challenge; you don’t get to go shopping too much. I am on my feet all the time. I haven’t found the perfect shoes yet. I have been searching though. I am a vixen metal artist and vixens have to wear heels. It’s an image.”

* Brenna Curry runs Vixen Fine Art Metal Gallery at 42 Main Street, Bisbee, Arizona. She recently received the 2013 Buffalo Exchange Visual Arts Award for her painted stainless steel and creations of woven metal. For more on Buffalo Exchange, see our feature in this issue.