TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tucson with Joyce

Joyce Levy, Tubac, Arizona

I got back from a month of being on the road with Abdul.  We were mostly in Tucson for the Gem and Bead Show.  Several days were spent going and coming through vast, unpopulated areas of the Western Desert states: Texas, New Mexico and then Arizona.  Lots of scenes like this:

That cross is there for a reason:  it's not easy to survive on the desert.  Well, that one was probably from a car accident, but still....  no water scares me.  Once in Tucson, my opinion did not get much better.  Big gusts of winds would lift up the dust and spread it everywhere.  I felt dirty all of the time.  Our hotel was filthy with no upgrades since the 1950's.  (Never stay at the Howard Johnson's, known as HoJo, if you can help it!)  Pipes broke, flooding and soaking the stinky carpeting.  I was not a happy nomad.  We had to set up the show and I hadn't seen much of the city.  When I did, it was at night, dark and scary looking.  

Tucson at Night

Tucson has observatories and a bunch of military things going on, I was told, so there are city ordinances about how much light can be on at night.  I would not like to go for a walk around the block on my own...  

Then, my friend, Joyce, rescued me from despair.  She lives in Skokie, a Chicago suburb, and her father lives in Tucson.  Every year she comes out at about this time and spends a month with him.  I got to bop around with them for a couple of afternoons, and, although I am no convert to the desert, they showed me some lovely areas.  

On the first afternoon, we went to see an exhibit at the Tucson Museum of Art,  Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Murray.  He had been a lover of hers and his photos of both her and Diego Rivera are spectacular!  There was also an accompanying display of Mexican garments that was lovely.  Joyce bought me a small decoupage of Frida which now hangs on my bathroom wall, a memory of a fine afternoon in Tucson!  We ate a sumptuous lunch at a cafe right next to the museum, indoor gardens, chirping birds and all of that wonderful SouthWestern decor.

From there we went to Sidney's (Joyce's father's) apartment.  He is 90 but looks and acts like he just turned 60.  He lives in one of those modern senior places that has a swimming pool and wonderful amenities.  Both Joyce and Sidney commissioned work from me in the past and I was finally able to see his pieces in their final destinations:

Rachel Biel and Sidney Levy

Here we stand in front of "Sidney's Ties" a weaving I made for Sidney of the ties he had worn for so many years as a professor.  You can see close-ups of the piece and the process on my blog:  Sidney's Ties.  Joyce had commissioned quilts made out of t-shirts worn by her brother, Bruce, who had an untimely death due to cancer.  Sidney had one of them and it was great fun to see it on his bed:

Sidney Levy with his memory quilt honoring his son, Bruce.

You can read about the other quilts on my blog as well:  The Bruce Quilt.  We swam and visited and by then it was time to take me back to the hotel from hell.

They rescued me a few days later for a little road trip.  Destination:  Tubac, Arizona!  Currently populated by about 100 families, the small town dedicates itself to a life of art.  The businesses are all galleries, cafes, and support services, making it a tourist destination out in the desert.  There was a huge festival going on when we went there, so that was perfect for the three of us, all art lovers.  But, first, we made a detour and saw the San Xavier Mission, just outside of Tucson.  The official site does not have any images of the church, very Franciscan of them, eh?  This google search has a bunch, but really, you have to experience it to really "see" it.  Layers upon layers of detail and texture cover the inside of the church.  You stand in the middle and just look around in awe.  I didn't even try to capture it on my camera.  The outside, though, was beautiful in its simplicity:

San Xavier Mission

Again, those inspiring SouthWestern lines:

Back to Tubac...  We had planned to meet up with Fran Siegal and her husband, Andy, who are TAFA members.  They live in New York and were also in Tucson for the show.  Finding them was not such an easy task and took up some of our time.  

Fran Siegal and Andy with me in the middle.
By then we were hot (but not sweaty!) so we sat at a cafe and had some refreshments.  The art town of Tubac is well planned with parking around the periphery and everything else within walking distance.  We explored a bit of the booths, did a bit of shopping and by then the afternoon had ended.

Joyce, Me and Sidney.

So, Joyce brought some spice into my Tucson time.  It was all very interesting and I enjoyed seeing the new landscapes, but when we were driving back towards my part of the country, I felt my spirits lift: back to the green, lush trees of the SouthEast!  I am truly living where I should be.

It was so wonderful to spend time with Joyce and her father and to meet Fran and Andy.  Joyce is a fountain of knowledge and always great fun to be with and now that I have met her father, I see that she is a chip off of the old block.  Precious people!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Colorful Tucson! Portraits in Pink.

We're in Tucson for the Gem and Mineral Show.  It's been a fascinating time of meeting people from all over the world.  Some are glassy eyed, going on and on about the stones and their healing properties and their mission in the world.  But, most are just having a good time.  I've been struck by the colorful dress, the happiness that so many seem to feel.  It's a good feeling to take with me.  Here are some portraits of colorful people who allowed me to take a quick snapshot of their smiles.  

Read more about our trip here.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Afghan Tribal Arts at the Tucson Gem Show

Afghan Tribal Arts in Tucson
Howard Johnson's, Room 149

Every year, for many decades now, the city of Tucson hosts one of the largest gem and mineral shows in the world.  People from many nations come with their rocks, stones, fossils, minerals, beads and jewelry and set up to sell to other people who also come from all over the world to buy.  It's quite overwhelming as big tents are set up with different themes all over the city.  Hotels, like the one we are at, remove the bedroom furniture and make room for temporary shops.  We are in an area where most of the vendors are selling big rocks, barrels of them, along with fossils and other minerals.  A block away is the African Village.  Down the street I have heard that there is some guy with some great stuff from Nepal.  I've pretty much been hostage to my little corner as Abdul was set up at another hotel with a show that ended tonight.

Outside we have a display of textiles, wood and show specials.  We only get to have one table in front of the room, while others have long selling areas.  We're in a fire lane, so we have to be contained.  If you look down the street, you see the others with their rocks:

Inside, we have beads along the walls on grids, then textiles and jewelry on tables.  It's quite a beautiful little shop except that the sun is so strong outside that it takes a minute to adjust to less light in the room.

So, as you can see, it's a little shop.  An expensive little shop!  $2,000 for the room for two weeks, $3,000 for a truck and gas, food, etc.  Traffic has been slow.  Old timers talk about the good old days when buyers squeezed by, shoulder to shoulder.  Now, you get little bursts of action and then quiet.  But, the connections made can be extremely valuable and if one does not take the risk, then it is like giving up on the whole business.  

It's been a fascinating time for me as I get to know my neighbors.  The guy next to me lives in Siberia and does not speak a word of English.  He expresses himself through smoke signals as he puffs at endless cigarettes and mimes his needs.  How can one sell like that?  Then, there are a bunch of friendly Mexicans and Germans living in the Dominican Republic, all in the mining industry.  They barbecue every night and tonight I was invited.  Such stories!  Next, a Polish woman from Chicago and her beaded jewelry.  Around the corner, a slew of Brazilians who have gobs of gems.  They are party hardy and I haven't had the guts to introduce myself (I grew up down there).  They are the black leather, gold watch, night-club scene and I am just a peasant from Kentucky now.  (Ha!) 

The most fun for me has been another Afghan, Shah Ji, who is around the corner closest to me.  Very sweet and great sense of humor.  We both roll are eyes in our heads....  Tomorrow Abdul will be back here full time and the real fun will start as he is the story teller and the true salesman.  I get to take the day off and traipse around with my friend, Joyce, from Chicago.  And, I got to meet a couple of TAFA members here and will do something with them in a couple of days.  So far, all I have really seen of Tucson is what is in front of me:

A bunch of bushes separating the hotel from an empty lot now inhabited by Rainbow Children....  Oh, I also got to see Petsmart and Walmart at night.  Woo hoo!  Petsmart?  Yes, the highlight of this trip, so far, has been finding little Tor, a new addition to my crew at home.  A chihuahua we found, abandoned at a truck stop in New Mexico.  More on him later...

Read all of the Tucson stories:  Click!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Here we come, Tucson!

It's been a long time since I have been able to just leave town and spend time away.  Now, I have Pat Scholz, who can house sit and take care of my animals (dogs and birds) and give me peace of mind.  My friend, Abdul, asked me if I would like to work the Tucson Gem and Bead show with him.  I jumped at the chance!  I've been wanting to see it for years!

So, we drove and drove and drove.  It took 3 days, going through territory that I had not seen before...

It's amazing to me how so much land is still uninhabited.  You can film cowboy movies here and it looks like the Old West.  Someone described the landscape as "Kitty Litter Decor" and I have to say I agree....  Where have all the good trees gone?

Big open skies, vast landscapes, an Indian restaurant in the middle of nowhere, roadside crosses where people lost their lives...............  Very different from Kentucky!

We are here and have set up.  More on the show very soon!



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