Sunday, November 21, 2010

Historical Marker - Highway 70 October 26, 2010

This is the time of the year that huge rolling tumble weeds become road kill. My car hurls towards the tan skeletons of the plants crossing the road and BAM. Shreds of their existence fly into the wind. I’ve heard this is the time of year that some people collect, spray paint and shape them into festive trees for the upcoming December holidays. Save a pine tree, harvest a tumble weed.
Placed, documented and photographed #63 on a historical marker which sign read, "In 1846, General Kearney’s ARMY OF THE WEST guided by Kit Carson followed the Gila River from New Mexico to the occupation of California in the Mexican War. Thus opening the southern snowfree route to the Pacific Coast."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

City of Safford/Graham County Library - October 26, 2010

One of the nice features around this type of year is that some of the leaves that fall from my eucalyptus tree - get crunchy. When one picks up a dried eucalyptus and crunches it up between their fingers - a wonderful pungent smell is emitted. The gift of cooler days and nights in the desert.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything with the Cowboy and Indian Found Art Project. On October 1, 2010, my first horse, Princess Lulu, had to be put down due to her cancerous tumor in her eye. Then the other horse, who shared the corral with Lulu and was her adopted mother, Lady Latte called out for companion all that weekend - day and night. Since that day, I feel as if a train as run right through my heart. My healing process has been impacted by my hospice work. Loss, death, grief, are all around me, each and every day.
Princess Lulu may have been the first horse I’ve owned, however, she wasn’t my favorite.
She stealthily taught my other horses how to get into the dog and chicken feed. When it came to administering minor first aid, applying on bug repellent or giving her apple flavored worm paste - she would run circles around the corral. That horse would do anything and everything to avoid me. My impressionable young filly, Lady Latte, started to imitate Princess Lulu’s behavior. I hired a professional horse trainer to "undo" all Lady’s unwanted behavior. Going solo on the trail, quail - a bird she was quite familiar with in the corral or on the property - freaked her out. She acted as if they were flying Pterodactyl dinosaurs coming just for her.
However, her strongest asset shined around other horses and riders. Princess Lulu, wearing no horse shoes, was fearless and sure-footed. I felt completely safe when I rode her up Mt. Graham on the tiniest, rocky trail. That horse was fearless.
Another feature of this time of year is when the ofrendas (altars) are put up and decorated in the City of Safford/Graham County Library in tribute of the Hispanic holiday, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s during this time period that people from our community put photos of their deceased loved ones, calaveras (colorfully decorated iced sugar skulls), Pan de Muerto (specially baked bread), flowers and candles on the altars.
Papel Picado (colorful Mexican paper cuttings) hang in swags above the altars.
Along with the photos of my grandmothers, grandpa and uncle was a photo of Lulu and I.
It was a photo that was taken when she and I delivered some baked goods to one of our hospice patients. This man’s last request was to spend some time with a horse before he died. We obliged. The man died later on that day. He got his wish.
I decided to put place, photograph and document art piece #64 on one of the altars. After the altars come down, I’ll discreetly place #64 outside of the library. Yeah, the cowboys and indians of long ago are dead and so is Princess Lulu. Just pleasant memories just like the smell of eucalyptus leaves on my skin.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Greenlee County Country Club - York, AZ September 29. 2010

Got lost on my way to patient’s home - which isn’t unusual. I drove into the parking lot of an aging white building with a swamp cooler and vast manicured lawns. Yes, this was the local golf course. Not a golfer in sight though. This was not any rural golf course. It was the local "country club." If I hadn’t read it on the sign at the entrance, there is no way I would’ve imagined that this was a country club.
Where I come from in Michigan, country clubs have paved or asphalt parking lots - not dirt and gravel. Many, many years ago I dined at the Grosse Pointe Country Club in Michigan. The staff, mainly male, wore white dress shirts with a simple tie and black trousers. Their socks and shined shoes were, of course, black. The tables were donned in ivory table cloths and napkins. On the table were simple fresh flower arrangements.
No linen table cloths at the Greenlee County Country Club. When I walked into the main dining room to ask someone for directions - a young woman, dressed in blue jeans and a tank top was busy behind the bar. She shouted out a greeting across the room and inquired how she could help. I walked up to the bar, got my directions, thanked her with a smile and left.
I stood on the front patio and looked around. No flower or shrub beds of any type. The cement patio had a few plastic webbed chairs that could’ve been from Walmart in Safford. Between the chairs was a white bucket that had a few cigarette butts at the bottom of it. A half a dozen empty beer bottles, stood like soldiers, next to the chairs. I even noticed a few empty beer bottles scattered under the odd bush.
I decided to place one of the cowboy and indian icon art pieces here. I walked back to my car and got it, my notebook and camera. Instead of putting it some where right next to the clubhouse, I placed, photographed and documented #65 in a small tree across the road from the clubhouse. Much like me, it was as if the art piece was a voyeur at the clubhouse. Strange to this environment, it would now be witness to the club members’ comings and goings. However, I drove away - a voyeur no more.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

City of Safford Victim/Witness Building - Safford, AZ September 27, 2010

I discreetly placed, photographed and documented cowboy and indian icon art piece #66 right under the corner of bush before anyone arrived for the annual candle light vigil for the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims and their survivors. Life size, plywood silhouettes - painted black - of men, women and children were erected all around the front of the building for the occasion.
At first, I wasn’t sure if placing one of the art pieces here wasn’t too cliche. Yep, Native Americans and cowboy brethren were indeed murdering one another due to underlining fear, anger, greed, jealousy and revenge. Probably these were the same reasons why the deceased, who would be honored here tonight, met their untimely death.
However, the past memories of "cowboy and indian" violent acts would be the story lines that fuel the imagination of cinematic adventure narratives and innocent childhood enactments for decades to come.
For today, the cowboy and indian art piece, even though hidden, would be part of the other objects left here in tribute of senseless loss. A tribute that is never a thrill to be part of.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The OutPost - Greenlee County, AZ September 14, 2010

I just purchased off of ebay a "Dunny - Kidrobot" toy. This 3" vinyl toy figure has three points of articulation: a 360 degree rotational head and two arms. An artist card or sticker is also included with the toy. There was a particular Dunny was designed by Michelle Valigura is named "Cowboy/Indian." One half of the figure is a cowboy joined down the middle to the other half which is Native American. Both halves are frowning. The cowboy half comes with a separate gun that the figure can hold in its hand and the Native American half comes with a tomahawk.
This inspired me today since I had just picked it up from the Safford Post Office prior to driving to Duncan.. This correlated with my cowboy and indian icon theme and was contemporary which I liked.
While driving down AZ 75, I came across a mom & pop store with a sign that read, "The OutPost - Beer - Wine - Picnic Supplies" a few feet from the road. Underneath that sign was a two-sided plastic, three foot Coca-Cola sign that had the capacity to be able to be lit up. The lower right hand corner had a piece broken out of it the size of a fist. Why not place cowboy and indian icon art piece #59 within another icon?
I tried to be as discreet as possible since customers were coming and going from The OutPost about 40 feet away. One guy, all dressed in black, with greased back shoulder length hair, got out of a black, four-door, battered early model Lincoln Continental. He was all dressed in black with a 45 caliber gun holstered on his belt. The man resembled a sinister-type who could have been a character in the David Lynch movie, "Wild at Heart." An elderly lady with curly, gray hair and glasses remained sitting in the front seat of the car. Was it his mother perhaps? He graciously left the car and the air-conditioning on for her while he went into the store.
I decided to place, document and photograph #59 inside of the broken corner of the Coca-Cola sign and get away from that store. What if he was going into the store to rob it instead of making a mundane purchase like a pack of gum or a bag of pork rinds? What if he saw me with the camera and assumed I might be spying on him? Either way, I wasn’t going to find out. Got back into my car and drove off before he ever left the store. Byeeee!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thatcher Cemetery - Thatcher, AZ September 9, 2010

Thought I’ve heard it all so far in hospice. The patient that I had just left decided that she was going to "shopping" for her own grave site at cemeteries located here in the county.
I’ve had patients plan their funerals, write their obituaries or compose their whole memorial service. Never had anyone pick out their plot of land for their remains within weeks of their possibly death. When it comes close to your time and the grim reaper may be knocking at your door, as human beings we need to feel as if we have some "control."
My first horse, a roan-colored Appaloosa named Princess Lulu, has been struggling with cancer for the past two years. Even though she still has energy, the cancer has taken a toll on the definition of her body lines along with a huge tumor growing out of her left eye. It’s her time. I picked October 1, 2010 to have Lulu put down because that day allotted me time to grieve without many outside demands. I’ve paid a rancher to pick her up at my place, take her to his ranch, mercifully shoot her and bury my beloved mare next to his favorite cow pony. Lulu doesn’t have the ability to make those decisions. She’s dependent on me to spare her a painful end. The age old struggle with choices and control is my burden right now with Lulu. I want the control but I hate the price of the pain. I hate it.
On my way back to the hospital, I drove through the Thatcher Cemetery for the first time.
I photograph grave sites from time to time. Not because I know the people who are buried there. Folks tend to decorate them so interestingly.
I wasn’t there for five minutes when I came across one that was cause to stop and park my car. The grave was all gravel and had a large quartz rock and a huge empty, black cowboy boot planter on it - standing side-by-side. A piece of tin, with faint etching, was shoved into the ground. Next to that was a pair of old leather cowboy boots stuffed with tattered, silk mum flowers that had all their color bleached out by the sun. The only writing I could make out on the piece of tin was "Jake Johns - died 2007."
The grave site seemed kind of lonely looking to me. I went back to my car and returned with a cowboy and indian icon art piece. I placed, photographed and documented #58 there. It appeared to fit right in with John Jakes’s other elements of decor.
Before I walked away I spoke out loud to the spirit of John Jakes. "Hey, I sending you my mare, Lulu soon. Please look out after her." Then I smiled, "Happy Trails."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

1125 S. Highway 191 - Pearce, AZ September 7, 2010

On my travels down 191 to and back from Pearce, I would always see these two curved shaped, steel, abandoned buildings. They reminded me of barracks one might see on an army base. Today was the day I decided that it was time to take a look.
Parked my car on the side of the highway. The buildings were 1/8 a mile from the highway. My walk consisted of watching how I stepped through waist high grass. My
little friends, the grasshoppers, lead the way. It was a careful climb up the wooden steps to the open entrance of the steel building on the left. Thank goodness it wasn’t high. If one of the steps had rotted out from the harsh AZ weather, my descent to the ground wouldn’t be far.
The first thing I noticed on the floor was what appeared to be a pack rat’s next. Rodent feces were scattered around the floor. Once again, I had to be careful how I walked on the wooden floors since they were prone to give in under the weight of my body at any time. There was a navy colored weathered, hand-painted in yellow sign which read, "FOR SALE. $35.000. 600 FT. FRONTAGE." Parts of the ceiling had already caved in. Most of the paint on the walls was peeling off. There was, what was left of it, a bathroom at the left end of building.
It appeared to be a building that was once used for social functions. On a sill of one of the broken windows was a festive Christmas arrangement made entirely of plastic. In some of the small piles of rubble that were through the building were bits Christmas decorations such as flat green garland and images of Santa on torn plastic sheets.
There were a few Christmas cards here and there on the floor. I picked up a soiled one off of the floor. The front of the card had a wreath made out of red chili peppers and read, "SEASONS GREETINGS." The inside of the card had a printed sentiment that read, "WITH WARMEST WISHES FOR A FESTIVE HOLIDAY SEASON AND A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR." Under this message, hand written, it read, "Brian, Jock (my husband) keeps saying how he wants to see your house and 9 acres (119,000?) sometime. Merry Christmas, Barbara Highfield."
After finding a shelf near the bathroom, I placed, photographed and documented art piece #61. This time, I once again manipulated the art piece’s final placement by setting Barbara Highfield’s Christmas card behind the art piece on the shelf. Then, I picked up a piece of green garland from the floor and wrapped it around the base of art piece #61 before taking my photograph.
Since this building was once a home to merriment, I decided to use the contents already there to make the placement festive. A tribute to the ghosts of parties past. Then I wondered, "What ever happened to Barbara Highfield? Was she still alive? Did Jock and her ever visit Brian? What kind of a relationship is Brian and Barbara really have?"
I took calculated steps out of the building and back into the bright, hot sun. Grasshoppers accompanied me on my walk back to the car. I touched the hot handle on my car door and with a precise maneuver, I opened it. Key in the ignition, with a quick twist, the engine started and the air conditioner began churning out, temporarily, hot air.
Once I was back driving on the asphalt highway, all I could think about was Barbara Highfield. Did she have a dance with Brian at the last Christmas party held in that building? I pictured two special friends sharing a laugh and gliding across the dance floor as my car made its journey - directly in the sun. I smiled and hoped in my heart that Barbara and Brian found happiness in their journey, together or apart. Whatever, I’ll toast them both on 12/25/10.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Broken Arrow Baptist Church - E. Ironwood Road, Pearce, AZ September 7, 2010

One can sure tell its Fall in SE AZ by driving down any asphalt road. There are hundreds of grasshoppers all over the road. One of my dogs, Belle, switches from chasing lizards to pouncing on grasshoppers at this time of year.
On my way to a patient’s home, I drove past a building, with a long sign of faded lettering, that read, "Broken Arrow Baptist Church." There were also some letters on the left hand side of the sign which read, KJ1611. I parked my car on the side of the road and walked 50 feet through tall grass. I carefully scanned the grass for rattlesnakes. No snakes, just grasshoppers.
The front door was chained and locked. The ceiling to the left of the entrance had almost caved in. Scattered around the entrance were identical, books with red covers which read,
"All American Church Manual." They were worse for wear from the weather.
Since I chose to manipulate the staging of the photographs at today’s scenes - I gingerly picked up two of the hymnals. One I placed as a back drop against the front door. The other I laid in front of it and opened to a hymn. There I placed, photographed and documented #60.
As I walked back to my car, I couldn’t help but wonder about what happened to the congregation of this church? Not enough coin in the Sunday collection plate? It occurred to me that this was an unusual name for a Baptist church - "Broken Arrow." Perhaps the church’s name had some connection to the Cochise Apaches who once resided here. Perhaps these folks were missionary types trying to convert the "savages?" Maybe the congregation just wanted to have an unique name for a Baptist church.
Another riddle unanswered. Got to my car. Another grasshopper I almost stepped on. Another patient to see before my car has to head down north Highway 191.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nielson Trucking Co. and Car Wash - Duncan, AZ September 1, 2010

Every time I drive into Duncan, I have to pass a red, white and blue painted self-serve car wash. Never do I see anyone actually using the facility or any vehicles parked there. Today I stopped the car to explore it and hopefully place an art piece there.

It must still be in occasional use because I didn’t see any debris around or broken glass from soda or beer bottles. It appeared that someone has been looking out after it.

Upon further exploration, I noticed a piece of plywood, painted white, which read, ”Nielson Trucking Co. - Owner & Operator Dan Nielson.” There was a semi-truck cab also painted on the sign. I was surprised, however, to see that there wasn’t a phone number listed any where on the sign. I placed, documented and photographed #57 on the ledge below the sign.

While I drove back to my office at the hospital in Safford, I thought about the assemblage pieces that I was working on in my studio at the ranch. These weren’t related to this art project except by theme. These assemblage pieces were made mainly of vintage cowboy and indian toys that I’ve acquired from all over the world on Ebay. The figures, plastic and metal, in various sizes were placed in off beat scenarios on table top sized shelves.

These pieces would be sold in a gallery or directly to a private collector.

While I worked on these assemblages, I thought back to the overseas tourists I’ve seen visiting Tombstone in the past. Were some of these Old West enthusiasts - as children, had they once played with some of the vintage figures I purchased from the four corners of the earth? Were they following up on their childhood iconic passions?

While driving to a patient’s home in Clifton the other day, I noticed that cowboy and indian icon art piece #50 was gone from where I placed it. Hopefully, who ever picked it up noticed my email address written on the bottom and will contact me. Maybe it was one of those overseas tourists. Maybe they were passing through on their way to visit one of the other local locations used as a backdrop in one of the old westerns. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cochise Cemetery - Cochise, AZ August 21, 2010

I headed to Grapevine Canyon Ranch for the weekend when I came across a cemetery. This wasn’t a weekend for rounding up cattle. I went to the ranch for rest, relaxation and a bit of riding. Eve, the owner of the ranch, told me that grasses were way up over one’s knee from all the monsoon rains. The cattle were so fat and sassy, from eating all that good grass, that pregnant heifers were fetching $1,600 and up at the Willcox Cattle Auction. This was a very good price, indeed.

It wasn’t too far from this area, back during the 1860's, Cochise and his Chiricahua Apaches raided a group of cowboys in the Sulphur Springs Valley. The cowboys were trying to get a herd of cattle from Texas to California. It wasn’t unusual for the Chiricahua Apaches to raid and steal cattle.

I chose this particular cemetery because I knew some of the folks that were laid to rest here were either victims or witnesses to some of the attacks of the Apaches on the settlers. This is the only cemetery I’ve ever seen that had a windmill right in the middle of it. A convenient source of water? Was the windmill there before it was actually a cemetery? Don’t know.

There was a particular grave that I was drawn to. It was that of “Elizabeth Livingston” - 1840-1934.” I placed, documented and photographed #49 on her grave. Now this was a local woman whose life would’ve been impacted by the unrest and conflict with the Chiricahua Apaches. This is the first time I actually left a Cowboy and Indian Icon Art Piece on someone’s grave. Her small grave stone was broken up and the ground around it unattended. I assumed that she either had no family left in this area or if she did, they didn’t care about the resting place of her remains.

When I arrived at Grapevine Canyon Ranch, I checked on where I left Cowboy and Indian Icon Art Pieces #19 (left on 11/27/09) and #31 (left on 4/12/10). The plastic cowboy figure on #19 was severed off at the ankles. Since the art piece was destroyed - probably by weather - I took it with me and placed it on my car floor until I got home. It was in bad shape so I decided to retire it. Maybe give it a bit of a burial ceremony on my property since it met its demise in the line of duty. Now #31 was still in place and in great shape. Seeing that encouraged me.

Since the climate here can be so unmercifully hot, I’ve been trying to place most of the Cowboy and Indian Icon Art Pieces in a spot where they would be sheltered from the sun.

But there will always be the placement where it can’t be sheltered from any of nature’s elements. Just like the flesh and blood Cowboys and Indians. Survival of the fittest. Art, once again, imitating life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

272 Williams Street - Duncan, AZ - August 12, 2010

I was told by one of my patients that sometime in the mid-late 1990's, Duncan encountered a horrible flood. On the hill over looking the town apparently FEMA trailers were placed there as what was suppose to be temporary housing. Here it is 2010 and some of those trailers are still there and with occupants. I don’t think that they are the original occupants. All I know is that they are trashed and appear abandoned. However, every now and then I get a hint of someone living in one of them.

I placed, photographed and documented art piece #53 by the front steps of a trailer, with red peeling paint, that appeared abandoned. There wasn’t a trash can, flower pot, clothes line or any kind of debris around this particular trailer. Then I noticed a note taped on the door to the only entrance. It read, “8/12/2010 - Fed ex people - if you could please drop package at Crystal Mirror Beauty Salon at 308 Southeast Old West Highway - Please.

Thank You - Felipa.”

I’ve passed by this so-called “beauty salon” on my way to see patients. It appeared to have small windows - if any. The sign for the beauty shop is visible from the two lane highway but hand written. Never seen a vehicle parked outside or person enter or leave the shop. Is it a front for something else or an actual beauty salon? Granted, I’ve only driven by there and never stopped. It never looked opened when I have driven by. Why stop?

The note creeped me out. Was this all a front for other activity? Possibly illegal? I drove my car out of the driveway of the trailer, down a street that took me by the Crystal Mirror Beauty Salon and kept on driving in the direction of Safford. That was all there was to it, I just didn’t want to know. Wasn’t going to let my curiosity possibly bring any harm to this cat.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coronado Beauty Shop - Clifton, AZ - August 10. 2010

While driving down Park Avenue I noticed the cutest two story beauty shop up a hill.

I drove up it and parked my car under a tree. The building was abandoned. The front door was nailed shut. However, there was easy access to the inside of the building through one of the broken windows. Too much broken glass so I didn’t even consider going in. I wouldn’t of any way because the owner had the front door nailed shut. While doing this art project, I choose not to trespass where I wasn’t welcome. A door nailed shut was a message loud and clear enough for me - stay out.

I placed, photographed and documented #55 on an inside windowsill. It was easy to do since most of the window was gone. I could see old chairs, designed for styling hair, and equipped with built-in ash trays. Lots of mirrors on the walls - broken and otherwise.

An odd piece of equipment or two - however, I was unable to figure out what was the purpose they once served.

After I walked back to my car, I noticed a horse skull in the dirt next to one of the tires. It was caked with mud and had been there for some time. I searched the ground around the car, however, there were no more bones. It needed a home. Usually, I don’t make a practice of taking anything from the sites where my art pieces are placed. I respect each of the places and think it should be left undisturbed. However, I thought that this skull would come in handy in another art project.

It was wrapped up in a plastic tarp that I always carry around with me in the trunk of my car. The tarp was placed back in the trunk with the skull inside. I closed the trunk, got back into my car and headed back to the hospital in Safford.

I wondered how many women frequented this beauty shop back in the day. Did it move to a better location or just close down all together? Surely more than one beauty shop could serve the women of Clifton when this area was thriving because of the copper mine. Did they have separate beauty shops for women of color? Did a woman have to go to a particular beauty shop if she was Mexican, Native American or African-American?

The world of beauty - universal but separate. No matter, almost every woman and/or man is united by the desire to look like the advertised glamourous images on the sleek, glossy pages of a magazine. Most of us would love to look - picture perfect and nicely packaged which will hopefully make us - happy?

Stone's Throw from the Phelps Dodge Mining Shovel - August 10, 2010

When I stepped back a few feet, I noticed this cute little, tan, brick house, with the window( shaded by an aluminum awning) and door broken out along with a tin roof - over my right shoulder. There was no address on it but I figured out that the address must be in the high 40's by what I could determine by the other houses nearby. The abode was on the corner of a row of abandoned houses. The corner of the house had a big hole and looked as if a car met with it head on. In the back of the house was a partial, rusty, metal swing set.

Upon getting a closer view of the house, a waft of a musty smell came through the door and window. I looked inside and it was filled up to the ceiling in trash consisting of bricks, mortar, drywall, furniture and other household items. Yeah, there was the odd beer can or food wrapper. But the destroyed furniture seemed to take up most of the space.

I gingerly placed, photographed and documented #56 on a pile of wooden boards just inside of the doorway.

After I stepped back, I wondered about the families who once lived in this row of houses.

They were all quite small so I assumed these families were poor. This street was nothing like Park Avenue in New York city. Never will be.

Phelps Dodge mining shovel - Park Avenue - Clifton, AZ August 10, 2010

On Park Avenue, Phelps Dodge Mining Company retired one its large, mechanical shovels. It removed 68,483,849 tons of material from the Morenci pit between January 20th, 1958 and February 11th ,1980. Once the shovel retired, it took a 4 year period to move and restore it. Here it sat. Waiting for me.

I placed, photographed and document #54 on top of one it’s huge wide treads. On the metal plaque nearby it displayed the names of dozens of men who had taken part in this restoration project. I thought how remarkable it would be if one of their relatives, that lived in the area, came across Cowboy and Indian Icon Art piece #54. Hopefully, it won’t be a kid who didn’t happen notice my email address on the bottom of the rock. A kid who found it handy when the urge came upon them to hurl it through the air at one of our many ring-tailed doves. Just like kids do who are bored on a hot summer day and one of Mother Nature’s creatures just happens to present them with the opportunity to let their energy flow into the rock, from their hand, casting its path towards feathers flying through space.

Hopefully the rock just falls to the ground. Leaving the bird to rest on the branch of a large tree and in the coolness of its leaves.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Greenlee Employment & Training Program Building - Clifton, AZ - August 9, 2010

It’s been many years since this boarded up building - a former dry goods store - was ever used to train anyone. This building is next door to the Rode Inn - the only motel in this area. Originally, I wanted to leave a Cowboy and Indian icon found art piece #50 at the Rode Inn because I found the name of the motel, “Rode Inn,” charming. However, there are too many contractors, associated with the copper mine - in and out of there - for me to place, photograph and document #50 unnoticed.

I tucked #50 in the front and in a corner of Greenlee Employment and Training Program building.

Uneventfully, I ceremonially did what I needed to do and was out of there. Got into my car and turned my front wheels towards the ribbon of hot asphalt, which snaked through the desert, and began my journey home to a meal of sliced watermelon and cherry popsicles for dessert.

Monday, August 23, 2010

5755 Highway 70 - August 9, 2010

On my way to Duncan, Clifton or Morenci, I always pass this white house with red painted windowsills in the front. No matter what time of day or night, there was always an early model Mercedes Benz parked in a carport - attached to the house. After many trips to Greenlee county, I noticed there wasn’t a trash container to be seen or any other car for that matter. Finally, I pulled into the driveway, parked with the engine and air- conditioning (refrigeration, as the term is known out here) running.

As walked closer to the house, I noticed that the Mercedes Benz had a flat tire. Through the main window of the house- facing the road - I could see that the house was sparsely furnished with not a thing decorating the walls. It was clear that no one was living here.

I placed #51 on a red cement windowsill on the side of the house. It was photographed and documented in its new home.

I am very happy to note that #8 - placed, photographed and documented in the beginning of September, 2009 - was still resting on its original, cement windowsill at 6010 Highway 191 as I drove by it this morning on my way to Clifton. Almost a year had gone by since it took residence at that home.

Nothing had changed and it still stayed the same. Only now my little Cowboy and Indian Icon Found Art piece is almost a year older. Happy Birthday! Long live the art project.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Texaco building - Frisco Avenue - Clifton, Az - August 9, 2010

The patient’s home was located on a small road that was on the side of a cliff. The directions I received on how to get there read, “Across from the RV Park baseball diamond - old Winebago style camper at the top of the road on the left. Patient’s home is behind the house in the front. You will have to walk back up to it and up the stairs.”

Believe it or not, I actually found the patient’s home. I guess I’ve gotten use to figuring out directions to some “never, never land.”

His son greeted me at the door. He made some small talk about the big horn sheep he had seen that morning on the side of the cliff . While his father/the patient slept, he reminisced with me about his father’s life as a miner. He told that when his father was young, in the mining town of Morenci, white people and people of color lived in segregated sections of Morenci. The son added that his father didn’t realize he lived in a segregated society until he went to school. He said that his Hispanic father just accepted his life for what it was and enjoyed the cultural richness of his African and Native American neighbors.

After my visit, I had to drive over some railroad tracks in order to get on the highway back to the hospital. Near the railroad tracks was an abandoned building with “Texaco” written across the front in large letters. It didn’t have any gas pumps so it wasn’t a former filling station. However, to the side of the building were silo shapes that might have held fuel for train engines.

Got out of my car and left the air-conditioning on. I placed, photographed and documented cowboy and indian icon art piece #51 there. Quickly, I got into the car, out of the sun and drove away. The merciless afternoon sun beat down through my car’s front windshield. However, I was distracted away from its intensity as my thoughts drifted between imagining the sight of lumbering big horn sheep eating grass in the cool, early hours of the morning and young children of color, from long ago, playing stick ball on a dusty, dirt road. Their zest exuberant - undaunted by any of the day’s weather.

Greenlee County Historical Museum/Farm and Ranch Annex - August, 2. 2010

Interesting early AM. While I was cleaning the corral before work, an elderly man in an early model pick-up truck pulled up to my main gate. He rolled down his window and shouted out, “Do you have eggs for sale?” I nodded affirmatively. After inquiring about how many eggs did he want to buy, I went into the house and got them out of the refrigerator. He got out of the truck and waited by the gate - he on one side and my two barking dogs on the other side.

I happened to be wearing a T-shirt that read “Voodoo Spiritual Temple - New Orleans.” About 10 years ago, I filmed a documentary on Priestess Miriam Chamani - a well known voodoo priestess, celebrity confidant, advisor and herbal healer. It was the name of her temple that I had glaring across my chest.

As the man and I exchanged money for eggs, he noticed the writing on my t-shirt. He remarked that he was a Christian and have I ever been baptized? After I remarked that as a baby I was baptized in a Catholic church in Detroit, MI - it dawned on me that this customer may have been intent on saving my soul after reading my t-shirt. I thanked him for his business and immediately walked back into the house. He got in his truck and drove off.

At that point, I felt like a punk. I avoided a potential religious discussion with him. However, he had nothing to prove to me or I to him. It was then I convinced myself that it was time to fire up the coffee pot and shower because I had at least an hour’s drive ahead of me to see my patient in Clifton, AZ. Then I got ready for work and turned on the air-conditioning in my car full-blast. I drove away and didn’t give that man a second thought.

* * *

On route to my patient’s home, I drove past a tiny county museum with a small annex that was surrounded by a few piece of rusting farming equipment from the late 1800's. Immediately, I stopped, parked my car and left the air-conditioning running. It was around 95 degrees and no one was in sight. I placed, photographed and documented #46 on one of the wheels of a piece of machinery that I didn’t have a clue about its function.

Within minutes I climbed back into the car and headed off to my patient’s home.

I drove by Sacred Heart Catholic Church and smiled. Thought about my customer from this morning. Before getting his eggs, I should’ve asked him, “ Now is that a dozen eggs with or without a spell from the spirits?” Hmmm?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Arizonia Rangers - Coronado Co. #10 - Duncan, AZ July 26, 2010

Today I spent time with a hospice patient who is a practicing Buddhist. We have a few different spiritual abodes or havens around these parts. There’s the Buddhist monastery at Iron Knot Ranch, St. Paisius Serbian orthodox monastery and the Peyote Way Church (and compound). However, there are no mosques or temples - at least not yet.

Within walking distance of my patient’s home was a very small headquarters of the Arizona Rangers - Coronado Co. - #10. The Arizona Rangers are a law enforcement agency modeled on the Texas Rangers. After banding in 1901, disbanding in 1909 and rebanding in 1957, their job was to apprehend rustlers and outlaws especially along the Mexican border. In 1940, RKO released a low-budget black & white film titled, Arizona Ranger. (A few years back I was able to purchase an original movie lobby poster that publicized the film.) Now the Arizona Rangers is a voluntary service organization who are civilian auxiliary police - functioning as youth and community support.

Since there weren’t any adequate places for a cowboy and indian icon art piece right at the headquarters, I chose the windowsill of an empty rock house - facing the AZ Rangers’ driveway.

After I placed, photographed and documented #48, a pounding monsoon rain came falling from the sky. I ran to my car, got in and waited for the rain to slow down some so I could have a clearer view of the road back to Safford and my office at the hospital. As I watched the thick wall of water roll down the windshield in my still car, my thoughts went back to the patient I just left. I hoped he was able to hear the rain pellet his roof. I hoped the sound helped soothe his anguish as he passed over to the other side - which he soon did. Hopefully, an angel was standing there with an umbrella - if need be.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Apple Annie's Produce - 6405 W. Williams - Willcox, AZ July 23, 2010

As I made my egg deliveries to my customers’ homes this AM before I started my other work day, I wondered if any of the customers knew that my Araucana/Americana hens were purchased from the same east coast hatchery that Martha Stewart and The Fabulous Beekman Boys (The reality TV show about 2 gay guys from the city who bought a farm in upstate New York. It’s sort of “Green Acres” meets “La Cage aux Folles.”) Almost every one of these particular customers has at least an undergrad college degree which is rare where I live.

Then, after I really thought about it, the reason why they probably all purchased their eggs from me was the fact that I personally delivered my organic eggs plus I’m cheaper in price than the only health food store within a 100 miles from here.

After all the deliveries, the patient I had to visit didn’t live too far away from the Truck Plaza where some of the nurses and I love having breakfast at every Friday AM. It’s got to be the best breakfast spot within a 100 miles - north, south, east or west. After I helped he and his wife sort through a bureaucratic nightmare with their health insurance coverage, the route back to my office in the hospital through the orchards and Coronado National Park beckoned me.

Huge white and gray cotton candy clouds, looking like they were inflicted by mumps, threw an overcast on the terrain which made it perfect summer driving weather - no hot sun beating down on me while through the windshield as I drove the distance.

I headed for the place where I would be able to get fresh picked sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers - Apple Annie’s. This is the destination for city folks from Tucson and Phoenix to drive to pick their own produce right from the fields - an afternoon event for the whole family. I, myself, do not like picking anything so I just make a purchase of what produce is available at their open air market.

However, I’m partial to the organic peaches and apples from Briggs & Eggers Orchards down the road from Apple Annie’s. Less fanfare which makes my buying experience more personal. One Saturday last October, I decided to pick-up a pumpkin from Apple Annie’s since I happen to be in the area. Wrong move! It appeared that half of Tucson’s population had the same idea along with taking a ride on in the hay wagon which was making the rounds while everyone munched on kettle corn. The line was very, very long to the cash register. Not today though. I drove into the graveled parking lot which had a variety of large shade trees that were planted in sporadic locations.

I placed, photographed and documented #47 in one of the trees in the parking lot way in the back. The yellow and green cowboy and indian plastic figures had a yellow and green backdrop from the John Deere tractors parked in the distance.

With cowboy and indian icon art piece #47 in its new home - I went to quench my desire.

The desire that wouldn’t be satisfied until I had the sweet, juicy pulp of a peach languishing around in my mouth. Oh, yes!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Launch

In 1986, I stumbled on some photos of Andy Warhol’s1986 artistic, icon series Cowboys and Indians. In 2006, these particular images surfaced in my psyche when I moved to rural SE Arizona from Ann Arbor, MI. Here, outside of Safford, I started off by building a small horse ranch at my new home, with an art studio, which I named the RocknW Ranch. With my masters from the University of Michigan, I took my MSW and hired into a position at the local hospital as a medical social worker in their home health and hospice program. The job entailed a great deal of travel into rural parts which I found attractive since the area was new to me. Quite a few of my patients lived in remote areas of Graham, Greenlee and Cochise counties. I discovered that GPS was of no use to me, in trying to find a patient’s home, when they lived on the far side of a mountain or hidden away in a valley. I have had to shoo cattle out of the road in order to get by or drove up a dirt road, with a steep drop off into a rocky gulch.

One day I decided to drive over to Tombstone for lunch. There was a cafĂ© that made the best buffalo burgers. I walked down the cowboy town’s wooden sidewalks – competing for space with hoards of overseas tourists. They appeared to attempt to capture glimpses of the old west through the ever present cameras in front of their faces. It appeared to me as if they were in search of what they viewed on reels of Hollywood film. I pictured them in comfortable seats at the cinema or in their homes across the Atlantic or the Pacific.

Speaking of reels of Hollywood film, as I approach many of my patients’ homes, I often hear the sounds of western films through their screen doors. One time, the wife of a hospice patient thought he was in a coma. This assumption quickly changed when she turned the TV channel from Gunsmoke to Oprah. Even though the patient’s eyes didn’t open nor did he speak, his arms began to wave wildly in disapproval! Once she figured out she was to change the TV channel back to Gunsmoke, he calmed down and resumed his peaceful sleep. Nothing can replace cowboy Americana.

I launched my Cowboy and Indian Icon Found Art Project in the summer of 2009. My work as a mixed media artist partially included collecting found objects and discarded books. I’m also passionate about old toys. All my adult life I’ve created art pieces made of found objects, book covers and discarded literature illustrations.

In 1996, my claim to fame came about when my nationally touring art was banned. This event happened when it was scheduled to be in Independence, MO – the home of our 33rd president, Harry Truman. The media coverage spread like a virus from being in print in USA Today to being spoofed on the nationally televised Saturday Night Live. After the completion of the tour, some of the art pieces went on exhibit at Cranbrook Art Museum before finding a permanent home at the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan’s special collections library.

When I first got settle into my art studio here in rural AZ, I began collecting the old animal bones and skulls that I found when I walked or rode through the desert. I then wrote accounts from people’s lives that I met on my daily travels through SE rural Arizona - on the bones. Maybe someday I’ll exhibit these art pieces in an art gallery. Maybe not.

I bought a package of plastic “Cowboy and Indian” figures at the local dollar store. After gluing them on rocks in battle positions, I wrote my email address and numbered each one individually. On my daily travels, I photograph, document and give them a new home in usually a remote place like an abandoned, country house or at another location that catches my fancy. Then, if someone finds one of my art pieces and decides to email me at the address on the bottom of the rock – I email them back a list of questions to answer about their experience and their perception of the plastic figures glued on to the rock. So far, I’ve been in touch with one person from Texas who decided to contact me after he found one of the art pieces close to the Apache reservation.

After growing up outside of Detroit during the race riots – I became intrigued with the dynamics of racial tension. Now I live in a place, with rich old western lore, and its own kind of racial tension. This is where the iconic racial tension and misunderstandings of the “Cowboys and Indians” received a great deal of their origin. Now I’m getting the Hispanic, Caucasian and Native American modern slants on why folks” just can’t get along.”

I never intended to keep a blog on The Cowboy and Indian Icon Art Project. Besides my work with hospice and home health, I have a Noah’s Ark of chickens, dogs, horses and cats to tend to - let alone spending some time in my art studio or dabbling in fiction writing. Then on a holiday visit back to Ann Arbor, I met Mary Cambruzzi, owner of FOUND gallery. She strongly encouraged me to write a blog.

She talked me into it. Here it is – The Cowboy and Indian Icon Found Art Project - Part II.

New Home - Adios, Blognet.

You may be reading my cowboy and indian art blog – as a new or returning reader. For the 2nd time in my life – I’ve been artistically censored. Hence, this is my blog’s new home. Only this time, being banned didn’t make national news or a spoof on Saturday Night Live.

In fact, I don’t know why my blog was even banned! All I know is that one day I tried accessing my blog and a page with word FORBIDDEN blared at me across the top of the page followed by a brief note informing me that I was being denied access. I tried for several days afterward and still that message came up on the screen of my computer monitor. I tried to contact Blognet’s home page in order to inquire about why I may have been censored. I was “forbidden” to even do that!

What gives? I never used profane language or threatened to blow up, shoot (except literally a rattlesnake), stab, kidnap or mutilate anyone or anything. What happened to freedom of speech and the 1st amendment? The one thing I did do, which may have aggravated my host sight, was to delete all the product advertisements that were bombarding my comment sections. So possibly I was censored because I censored capitalism at its finest. Go figure. I’ll never know.

The only entry that I will be bringing to the blog at this host site is the initial one titled The Launch. It explained the how, what, why and when of The Cowboy and Indian Icon Found Art Project’s blog. I would like to bring all the original entries to this site (I printed out most of the original blog and filed it away), however, my spare time is very limited. It amazes me how I even find time to write when I do.

How do you people out there keep up with your Facebook pages?! I don’t have one but I get invited to participate on other people’s pages all the time. Hope no one out there becomes offended because I never visit them. I appreciate anyone who takes time away from Facebook to read this blog. Technology hasn’t made parts of my life easier or given me more time. Just more opportunities to unfulfilling attempt to connect with others in the sphere of cyber space.

Anyway, welcome to The Cowboy and Indian Icon Found Art Project blog -

----- Part II.                                                   Yee Haw!