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!