Jul 29, 2013

Trip down Tooksahn way (Arizona Biennial 2013)

I am an Arizona native. Call me a "Zonie" and I will slowly take my white glove off of my right hand and thwack you with it then swish my cape at you as I walk away. 

I moved to LA back in '03 to live and play at the beach. As far as my art career goes people tell me that I should have stayed in Phoenix for just a little while longer. I was getting studio visits and write ups, and I got into the AZ Biennial 2003 right before I left. For me, at that time adventure came first, and art was one aspect of my busy life.

Living in LA,  I focused mostly on making money as a designer so I could afford rent at the beach, traveling, and eating at nice restaurants and enjoying everything I could squeeze out of the California Coast.  I have never stopped painting and showing, but I have yet to shed my designer skin and become a full time artist. The issue is that I don't want to lose my lifestyle and I have never been willing to compromise the integrity of my paintings by having to rely on them as "sellable". 

In my case having a jobby job has been good for my art. I paint whatever I want and I can change my style and make art that challenges me. If I had to paint the same shit for the rest of my life because it sells I would go nuts. I still can't imagine what it must be like for someone like Axl Rose to have to sing Welcome to the jungle—over and over. Eee-Yah! To each his own, and if you find your life's work painting "zips" like Barnett Newman, you are challenged by it, and it shows in the work, then more power to ya! 

In 2008 (when me and half of the folks working in museums got "laid off") I became a freelance designer making more money working part time. Having more time to paint I found my "zip" and I now have a body of work that I feel is something I can work on for a long time. I've recently decided to put the work and myself out there 100% and if I can design less and paint even more I will. Fortunately my recent paintings and sculptures are beginning to appeal to people—and I am able to show and sell them without feeling like I am compromising the purity of my process. It is a great feeling and I have much gratitude every time I go into the "studio". 

It is true, there is a market for everything, so you may as well do what you love.

...and then Gateway Ranch happened last December and here I am back in AZ.

Living in LA was good for my art. You'd think I would have learned. I was showing and getting a few write ups and yeah in terms of my "art career" I probably should have stayed there a little longer too. I go where my heart (and goat) tell me to go.

I see every moment as having meaning and certain things that happen remind me that I am on the right path. So when I applied for the AZ Biennial 2013 and got accepted I felt like I picked up right where I left off in AZ. A book end so to speak. My Arizona pals haven't forgotten about me and there were never any hard feelings for taking off to LA. My work has been accepted and embraced here and I have been feeling the AZ love (as Fausto would say). Shortly after I moved to The Ranch I was in a group show at monOrchid in Phoenix and got interviewed in an article for the AZ Republic. I have a Solo show at Eye Lounge in a couple of weeks and I just found out I have a solo show in October 2014 at monOrchid. I just want to say THANKS to all of you that are following what I'm doing and for your love and support!

The Tucson Museum of Art.

I'm a sentimental cat. I found the shirt I'm wearing in this picture in a pile of the previous renters junk at my first real studio in Phoenix called The Lodge. ©Jana Davis

Gallery shot of the exhibition. ©Fausto Fernandez
Fausto asked me if I was going to talk about my painting. I said, "I don't thinks so. I'm kind of buzzed." He said,  "Just say anything, no one will remember it. They just need to see your face." ©Jana Davis

Pink Glandscape oil on canvas ©Bill Dambrova
The body believes in images series: My art celebrates the miraculous events that take place within our bodies and our minds.

Fausto and I are close pals and we both lived in the Lodge back when that area was a crack neighborhood. He moved out to LA and we got to hang and go to art shows for several months before I moved back to AZ. He's been in the AZ biennial 4 or 5 times since I left AZ. This is the first one we've been in together. His hand is trembling because he's about to smack my finger off of his painting. ©Jana Davis
Fausto Fernandez Love is what you make it out to be Mixed media collage on canvas. ©Fausto Fernandez

Fausto, Tucson Art Museum curator Julie Sasse and myself. ©Jana Davis

I was excited to see that the guest curator Réne Paul Barilleaux from the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio selected several pieces that were gutty or "Gutsy" as this writer mentions. 

Jesse Berlin Untitled Deer Study cold cast bronze and polyurethane ©Jana Davis

My new Tucson artist pal Daniel Martin Diaz Self aware system graphite and chalk on paper.

Devin Kelly Formulating Environments oil on canvas

Monica Aissa Martinez Male-back body casein, gouache, gesso and acrylic on arches buff.

Michael Marlowe Falling to pieces oil on canvas

Studio visit: Michael Marlowe

Since I'm up in Northern AZ, Julie (curator at TMA) suggested I contact another artist to see if I could get my painting a ride in his truck. I was excited to find out that it was Michael. I saw his work on a flyer a while back and was attracted to his imagery for obvious reasons. I love the organic gutty sexual shapes, his baroque(ish) style and the scale of his work. These are paintings I look at and think, "Damn I wish I'd thought of that!". So I made sure I got to deliver my painting personally so I could see his work. 

Great guy! We talked for quite a while. I asked him where he shows in Phoenix since I hadn't seen his work around. To paraphrase he said something to the effect of "My current subject matter is't exactly sellable. I'm also a designer." I found another artist more concerned about making good art without compromise!!!  I can't wait to get to know him better.

I forgot how long he said this was, but he is working on it in sections. It rolls up like a scroll and he has never seen the entire piece at once.

Works on paper.

He mentioned wanting to make large scale "balloons" based on some of these drawings.
Collin Chillag UAMA University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson.

Our friend Collin Chillag has 4 paintings in a group show at the UAMA museum. These were the ones he was working on when I went to visit his studio back in May. See blog post Leave no Trace My Ass. From left to right Zach, Fausto, Jana, Vaiden, and Joe taking them in.
The Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo: A permanent exhibition at UAMA
These are works from 15th century Spain from the workshop of Fernando Gallego I'm too lazy to copy the original titles so I gave them my own... 

Gallery entrance.

Hey! Where's everybody going?

Use the force Jesus.

Shh!! I hear something over there.

Wardrobe malfunction Jesus.

Reservoir Dogs Jesus. To the music of Steelers Wheel Stuck in the middle with you. Yes, Jesus is feeding that guys his own ear.

Baby Jesus never forgets a face.

Nothing up my sleeve.

 Jheri Curl Jesus. It looks like he is about to dip his fingers in.

Hey boys, Super Jesus is here.

Plastic Jesus.

Simmah down now.

Larry, Moe, and Jesus.

Djembe Djesus.

No no. Don't get up.
Shameless Advertisement: Its my blog and I can do what I want

Work in progress for my solo show at Eye Lounge August 16th.
Here is the link to the fb event page.

Sayonara Goatpals. Bill out...

Jul 14, 2013


I saw STAR WARS A New Hope in Phoenix at the Cine Capri theater in 1977. I was seven years old. I grew up watching it and I still watch it—often. Over the years I've identified with different characters from the movie. When I was seven I loved the droids and Chewy. At the moment Han Solo is my favorite, but in my teens it was Luke. Just like Luke I lived in a desert and I thought it was just as desolate as Tatooine. I wanted to get "teleported off this rock" and go on dangerous adventures and experience other cultures in exotic places. (Not necessarily with an old man in a robe... Well, you get the idea.)

My way off this rock was through museums. Working as a preparator and then later as an exhibit designer I got to experience other cultures through art, artifacts and travel. 

I met one of my best friends working at the Heard Museum in Phoenix around 15 years ago. Back in the day Manny and I would sit across from each other in the preparator's workshop making mounts (display stands) for artifacts discussing our dreams and crazy art ideas including his idea to dub STAR WARS in Diné bizaad, the Navajo language. He is very humble and makes sure to credit his team in the articles and video interviews I will link you to at the end of this post. Manny has worked really hard to make sure that this concept was presented in the right context. All these years later as director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Manny was just waiting for the right time to pounce. He not only pulled it off, he did it with style. I'm so proud and inspired by his accomplishment I have goose bumps writing this. Showing the movie during the rodeo on the rodeo grounds, you'd think Manny could have fulfilled one of my life long dreams to see midgets dressed like jawas riding sheep. I guess there is still time. Moral of the blog post: It is never too late to make those dreams come true.

One of my museum work related trips lead me to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. This is me holding the light saber Mark Hamill used in STAR WARS Return of the Jedi. It had just returned to Earth after its journey on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2007. Feel the power!!! ©Louisa Kwasigroch

This is Manny (Wearing his Boba Fett Shirt) and myself last year in Many Farms, AZ after a few days of butchering sheep and digging post holes. He called me several months ago and told me that he was on his way to Burbank to talk to big shots about moving forward with the project, but most importantly, where should he take his crew to eat while he was there. I sent them to The Smokehouse. Then just a few months later they set a date and a place to debut "Navajo STAR WARS"! ©Jana Davis

July 3rd 2013 history was made. The first Hollywood movie to be dubbed in a Native American language was shown in Window Rock during the fair and rodeo. I was so excited from the moment I got out of bed that morning I started seeing STAR WARS in everything. On the right is obviously the Millennium Falcon. On the left is a rock I saw out in the cinders in front of the ranch house. Photo on the left ©Lucasfilm

In Winslow, AZ off of the I-40 on the way up to Window Rock. This may be a stretch but it cracked me up. ©Jana Davis

Now it's getting weird. We randomly stopped at a place to eat in Winslow called the Brown Mug and saw This is on the wall above a booth.
Hello!? This obviously manipulated billboard spotted on the I-40 looks like Darth Vaders Tie Fighter.

The drive up is beautiful. ©Jana Davis

There is indeed a window in that there rock. When you go, stay at the Quality Inn Navajo Nation Capital. It's a great 2 star hotel with awesome people running a tight ship.

Manuelito Wheeler and I a few hours before he had to go into action and run the show. ©Jana Davis

While waiting for seating to start, we headed over to the fair to find some lemonade. ©Jana Davis

I thought the lemonade should come out of here. ©Jana Davis

We took her picture, but got our lemonade at the vendor next door. Who buys lemonade out of a fish? ©Jana Davis

Navajo Banksy strikes again!

We had reserved seats next to the cast. ©Jana Davis

Me with the 501st Dewback Ridge Garrison. I took the snow troopers gun. I guess he's not used to posing with out it and copied the Vader pose. ©Jana Davis

I wanted one of those shirts, but the guy sold out of my size. It says, "These are not the Diné you are looking for."

During the movie, people of all ages were laughing and having a great time. I really wish I understood some of the translations. People were just cracking up every time C-3PO said anything.

I'm your Daddy?

If Manny doesn't pay off Jabba the Hut he's a dead man.

My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns hun!
"Bill and Jana" sounds a bit like "Bilagáana". Hi we're Jana and Bill! Check out this video of us on the news in New Mexico. ©Jana Davis

I wasn't sure what Manny meant when he said, "We're doing this thing super bowl half time style. Roll in fast set up and get started." This is a livestock trailer with a movie screen attached rolling in to the rodeo grounds. ©Jana Davis
As I mentioned they did it right. That projector is the same one they use in high end movie theaters. Jana did it right too. She even has little stars glued to her face.

The anticipation while the screen unfolded and the seating was arranged made it feel epic. I saw the guy that planned and set up the screen kicking back with a smoke before the show. He said, "Manny told me to have this up in 30 minutes, I did it in 20."

In the tradition of not making things too perfect... NO VIDEO TAPPING. ©Jana Davis
These speakers were awesome. I felt the explosions throughout my entire body.

Oooh the anticipation grows. Now whenever I watch STAR WARS I will always remember the sweet smell of manure and popcorn.
Manny holding his own on the microphone. He made sure to tell everyone to make sure not to be "TAPPING" anything tonight if you want to see another movie dubbed in Navajo. I suggested Porky's 2 or Meatballs but he wasn't havin' it. 
The cast. Not understanding much of what they were saying, I felt that they all got their voices to sound extremely close to the original actors. Darth Vader (wearing the black hat of course) and C-3PO (in the gold C-3PO shirt) had the crowd going every time they had a line. They all sounded great and did this major task in a very short time frame.

I figured that since I was good and didn't bootleg the movie or take any photos of Greedo talking to Han with Navajo subtitles, I would do you one better and show you a a few paintings by my friend Ryan Singer. I will let the paintings and their titles speak for themselves. Click here to see more of his work. Click here to buy one of his cool coffee mugs.

©Ryan Singer Tuba City Spaceport, 30" X 40", Acrylic on canvas, 2011

©Ryan Singer Sand People with War Blanket, 24" X 24", Acrylic on canvas, 2008

                                   ©Ryan Singer Bounty Hunter Trickster Encounter, 30" X 40", 
Acrylic on canvas, 2010

©Ryan Singer Princess Leia with Shiprock, 24" X 30", Acrylic on canvas, 2011

From Manny's NPR interview: "Language is the core of our culture, and I felt we needed a more contemporary way to reach not just young people but the population in general".  Notice the collection of Boba Fetts in Manny's office at the Navajo Nation Museum at mailing address P.O. Box 1840 Window Rock, AZ 86515. He loves Boba Fett and loves receiving them as gifts. He's got a hand written letter from Jello Biafra framed on his wall too.

Links to articles about Navajo STAR WARS:
Arizona Central This is probably the most comprehensive article with lots of video of the voice actors.
Watch the video on Indian Country There are clips from the movie.
The Telegraph

(I would have said that in Navajo, but I need to watch the movie about 300 more times for my pea brain to retain anything.)