Saturday, January 29, 2011

1622 14th Avenue Safford, AZ January 11, 2011

The city of Safford has an older established community of site-built houses that surround the hospital, a few dentists’ and doctors’ clinics. A few blocks from the hospital is a wooden house, barn and a few sheds that are half standing and are slowly continuing to crumble. This beat up farm house and its buddies, which include a pick-up truck, are quite the eye sore amongst the beautiful, modern brick houses with their surrounding simple, meticulous landscaping. I remember when I drove down this street in 2006 and assumed that this neighborhood monstorousity was to be torn down. Its still here and calling my name.
I placed, photographed and documented #79 on the edge of a cement feed trough, in the only stall, of what was left of the barn still standing. There was some old horse manure in the stall, of course. However, in a stainless steel wire basket were what appeared to be the folded, fairly clean clothes of a very small child. Not far from the basket of clothes was a cherry red, dirty, brocade, polyester sofa cushion. That was it. It looked more to me like these items were from the former occupant and not one of a squatter.
Later on in the day I asked someone who worked at the hospital and use to live on that street - the story of the old farm house. He has some ideas but wasn’t really sure though. The man appeared to care less about its existence.
All I could think about as I drove home that evening was the basket of neatly folded children’s clothes left in the stall. Some little boy or girl either out grew their clothes and got all new ones or went without any at all because of their forgetful parent. Hopefully the former instead of the later.

3339 Highway 191 Safford, AZ Jaunuary 3, 2011

A woman once told me that her boyfriend made her and her four young children live in the horrible, deteriorating abode at this address. When I first moved to Graham County in March, 2006 - I was employed as a psychotherapist at the only community mental health outpatient clinic in the county. The former occupant was one of my therapy clients.
I knew that no one was living there now by the accumulation of huge, dead tumbleweeds around the house. I placed, photographed and documented #75 on an outside windowsill of the home which was no easy feat because of the tumbleweeds. They may’ve have been dead but they were still prickly and impossible to avoid. The one reassurance I had about the placement was the time of the year. It was January and the odds were high that I wouldn’t encounter a snoozing rattlesnake amongst the dead fauna.
Part of the bottom left corner of door was missing. As if someone, at some time, tried to kick it in. Friend or foe? My guess -the friend, who was a lover, became a foe. No fairy tale ending for this love story. Just a reminder of lost hope.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Highway 80, AZ - December 7, 2010

It was fun having a "Thelma" with me when I was placing, photographing and documenting cowboy and indian icon art pieces. Usually, the only other "witness" to the process of this art project is my blog. I so enjoyed her enthusiasm towards the artistic process. It transcended the essence of the art project from creative task to adventure.
Yee Haw!
Francesca was a bit apprehensive about the next location I had chosen for placement.
The sun was now starting to set. Driving down the highway back to the ranch were long stretches of nothing much. On one of these stretches, an abandoned sea green building - the size and shape of a cabin - beckoned me to stop.
Now I’ve been exploring rural SE AZ for almost 3 ½ years. My only fears about entering an abandoned structure are falling through a spot on a rotting floor, loose shingles or boards descending from the sky or Mother Nature - a snoozing poisonous spider, snake, scorpion or other startled animal of the four legged variety. Frankie, coming from a more industrial location in Great Britain, envisioned a wigged out homeless person attacking me while she watched on from the front seat of my car.
I own a permit to carry a concealed weapon. It not unusual for folks out here to travel with a gun in their vehicle as their second amendment right and fear of being left in a vulnerable situation out in no man’s land. I had my .22 Ruger hand gun with me - holstered. Frankie expressed having peace of mind. However, this wasn’t a western movie and I had no intention of firing the gun unless a coiled rattlesnake was ready to strike.
It turned out that the abode did not harbor any rattlesnakes or irrate vagabonds. There were quite a few books, stored in cardboard boxes, instead. I placed, photographed and documented #70 on an inside windowsill. It was difficult to photograph the cowboy and indian icon art piece from the outside. Francesca helped me out. She got out of the car, walked up to the windowsill and pointed straight to it for the photograph. Artistic mission accomplished with no casualties! We both laughed.
We were able to get back to Grapevine Ranch Canyon before the sun had completely set.
On the way to the mess hall and the company of other equine enthusiasts at supper, we drove by cowboy and indian icon art piece # 31, undisturbed. That one was placed at Grapevine Canyon Ranch on 4/12/10 - also without incident or casualty!
Long ago, there could’ve of been an incident when the artistic excursion could’ve met with foul consequences. This particular area has quite the history of Apache unrest. But for tonight our artistic adventure was just another story to tell around the supper table between mouthfuls of tender chicken, crunchy corn off the cob, tossed salad, buttery mashed potatoes and homemade cheesecake for dessert.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Desert Pony - Spirits & Food. Elfrida, AZ December 7, 2010

I had a silent partner on my this and the next cowboy and indian icon art placement.
Her name is Francesca - Frankie for short. I was attending "cowgirl college" at Grapevine Canyon Ranch in Pearce, AZ. The "college" consisted of a week’s training in barrel racing and other western horseback skills. Frankie had flew over from England to attend the week’s training. We hit it off as soon as we met. If Hollywood ever decided to do a remake of "Thelma and Louise," they could definitely cast us into the leading roles.
Frankie needed a ride to a store in Elfrida for some riding attire and I needed locations for two of my cowboy and indian icon art pieces. I offered her a ride to the store if she didn’t mind my stopping to place, photograph and document 2 of the pieces. Even though Frankie isn’t much of a conceptual art fanatic, she was up for any kind of adventure this Yankee was willing to put in her direction. She was in my car before I was.
We got to Elfrida which consisted of the western attire/feed store, post office and another store or two. Across the street from where we made our purchases was what use to be the only restaurant/bar for miles around called, "The Desert Pony." Hadn’t a clue how long it was closed but it looked like a good place set a cowboy and indian icon art piece to me.
On this occasion, Frankie sat in the front seat of the car while I placed, photographed and documented #74 on one of the restaurant’s front windowsills. As I finished up, I turned around and saw Frankie smiling through the windshield. I got back in the car and asked Frankie what the big smile was about. She replied, "You’re mad. I like it, Sharon! Where to now?" With that, we were headed back to Grapevine Canyon Ranch and the next cowboy and indian icon art placement. Hi Ho and away we go!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

N. Stadium - Thatcher, AZ November 24, 2010

I placed, photographed and documented #73 at the dead end of street. It happened to be at a lonely wooden barn almost fallen to ruins. There’s nothing unusual about a barn, completely falling apart, in a rural area. It’s just that this one is located in an established community of homes that are well taken care of. It was as if most of the people living around here just established their homes around the small barn which eventually became useless.
It sort of reminded me of some of the lifestyles of my home bound patients. Lifestyle’s around them evolve and revolve while theirs is pretty much at a standstill. Reliving all their memories with the sound of the ever present TV in the background - one of the few constants of their lives. The drama in their days consists of a storyline on "who done it" show. As meals-on -wheels arrives, they watch cooks conjuring up and tempting them new dishes that they will only be able to dream about during their afternoon nap. These dishes will always be full of taste and exotic ingredients that will be fuel for their imaginations unlike the unseasoned meat, potatoes and vegetable just brought into their home by a smiling and caring volunteer. However, the warmth of the volunteer, unlike the TV, will be the food for their soul.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

256E - 200 South Pima, AZ November 24, 2010

My last cowboy and indian icon art piece placement of the day was on one of the busiest streets in the small town of Pima. What I mean by busy is that a vehicle may drive down this stretch steadily every 5-10 minutes. It lead directly on to Hwy. 70.
Not too far from Hwy. 70 is a small, abandoned, plain, wooden house with shingles on the roof that look like they are about to crumble off. The door at the main entrance was missing its bottom half. I placed, photographed and documented #71 on the wooden floor inside the main entrance.
It surprised me that this house wasn’t vandalized. It was not far from a school and had been obviously empty for some time now. Kids in the country get bored as easily as city kids and an abode like this could be a target for harmful, mischievous adventure.
Perhaps the house is haunted. Maybe none of the local kids want to go near it out fear of being visited from the other side. All I knew, I wasn’t going to hang out there any longer to find out. Who ever’s spirit may be dwelling there now, please tell my grandparents I said, "Hi."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pima Cemetery Pima, AZ November 24, 2010

Today I drove the back roads back to the hospital after visiting one of my patients in Pima.
I often enjoy doing that because it helps me scout out new locations for my cowboy and indian icon art pieces. Since I happened to be nearby, I went on a brief exploration of the Pima Cemetery which was established in 1879.
The most interesting grave site I came across was that of Sandoval family. Not only was a an image of a John Deere tractor engraved on the headstone, there were at least a hundred toy pick-up trucks, tractors, cars and trailers lined up in neat rows next to a dozen vases of silk flowers. Most of the toys emulated the John Deere name brand.
Since I am working with toys in this art project and a few others, of course the grave site beckoned me to leave one of my cowboy and indian icon art pieces there. I placed, photographed and documented #72 between the last row of silk flowers and the first row of farm toys. It appeared to be at home next to the rows of other toys.
Then I wondered, are the toys a part of a collection of the deceased or had other folks placed them there in homage to the deceased? I envisioned my future grave site. A pair of old cowboy boots filled with flowers and HUNDREDS of plastic cowboy, cowgirl and indian figures - new and vintage, large and small - all over and around my grave site. Pounds and pounds of colorful plastic molded into action figures of the Old West. At least it wouldn’t be difficult to find. The plastic images would exist longer in the universe than my flesh and bones ever would. Long live, art. Long live, art.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Willcox Livestock Auction Willcox, AZ November 18, 2010

It was Thursday. This is the one day of the week when ranchers from several counties in Arizona and New Mexico bring trailers full of cattle to sell to wholesale buyers from the city. If I’m nearby, because I had to visit a patient or two, I’ll stop by the auction to visit my friend Terry Burgess who works in the sales office.
Terry is a widow and semi-retired rancher who lives about 10 miles down the road from me on a 40 acre spread. She grew up on a ranch that was very remote. During the school year, Terry stayed with someone in town and only traveled back to the family’s ranch on the weekends. The list of the cattle and horse organizations which is active in is
Terry’s father, Claude McNair was inducted into the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1972. This year, Terry was inducted into the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. The only father and daughter to hold those honors in the Hall of Fame’s history. Terry has been only the 5th woman to ever been inducted.
I placed, photographed and documented #67 in a corner of one of the back corrals. One that had very few cattle in it. Unknown to Terry, I dedicated the placement of #67 to
When I have those days when life is so overwhelming that I don’t even feel like getting out of bed, I think of women like Terry. Another one of my heroines will always be Dale Evans. She once said, "Cowgirl is an attitude, really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses.  Cowgirls take stands, they speak up.  They defend things they hold dear."       That’s Terry.   That’s my girl!


Stewart Family & Community Education Center Willcox, AZ November 18, 2010

One of the reasons I’m attracted to placing my cowboy and indian icon art pieces in old abandoned homes is because of stories I’ve heard from my patients. Most of the patients I have in home health and hospice are elderly. When they are reminiscing, while I visit by their bedside, childhood homes are a frequent topic. Some of the tales of the past will include their experience of returning to the rural home they grew up in. The majority of these folks will share how sad they felt when they visited an abandoned rural home of their childhood. The placement of my art pieces (made from children’s toys) in abandoned houses gives new life, hopefully, to childhood abodes that are no longer useful to anyone else.
The Stewart Family & Community Education building on Ft. Grant road came to mind.
When I walked through the tall grasses around the building, I came across a fallen, wooden sign with peeling paint which read, "4 H." The back door was wide open. Once inside, I noticed the front room - of the two room abode - had books laying on the floor.
The books were filthy so I decided not to examine any of them. It was obvious that this building once served to educate the local, young whipper- snappers.
All that was left in the back room was a large, old, white kitchen sink which had two sets of drawers underneath it. Standing next to it, was a small, unpainted, wooden table. Upon opening one of the drawers under the sink, I found nothing.
I placed, photographed and documented #69 on the level portion of the sink which appeared to be for food preparation. I exited out the back door and slowly walked to my car. I hoped to find other refuse amongst the tall grasses which might give me a clue or identification of the folks who once came here outside of the Stewarts. I arrived to my car and had found nothing else.
While I sat in the car and started up my engine, a feeling of peace came over me. Then came the satisfaction of knowing that I got to pay tribute to an old, wooden building which was once the center of learning and companionship to rural children who were now grown-up and reminiscing back to a time when they gathered there for companionship and to hone their agricultural skills. A time when someone prepared snacks for them on that kitchen sink. A time when they looked ahead to a life of discovery and adventure. Now those memories are faint and illness may be dominating their lives. The memories of the past now soothes the hints of pain associated with movements of their aging bodies.
Thank goodness for the blessing of our memories - we are forever young.

Helicopter - Hwy. 70 Eden, AZ 11/16/10

Not too far from the Glenbar Cotton Gin and the Taylor Freeze (Home of the big "T" burger) is a helicopter sitting in solitude next to the railroad tracks. On my travels to and from Globe, Phoenix and numerous patients’ homes, I noticed that the flying machine has never been moved for at least 3 years. I stopped and parked my car near the railroad tracks. It didn’t have any sort of doors and the weather had taken its toll on the helicopter’s interior. After I wallowed through tall weeds, I placed, photographed and documented #68 what one could call the chopper’s dashboard.
Old West art and aviation - an interesting mix. As I drove away, something inside (growling stomach) harkened me to the Taylor Freeze. Well, one couldn’t drive back to Safford without a Big T burger. Can one?

Corner of McDowell Road & Ward Canyon Road - Clifton, AZ November 10, 2010

It was very windy but the sun shown as bright as a new copper penny. I placed, photographed and documented #62 right below a YIELD sign at the corner of 2 crossroads. The patient I was visiting was in a elevated "subdivision" in Greenlee county- very scenic and desolete. From where could stood, I could see the mauve shadings in the rock at the cooper mine. The muted colors of stone were the contoured plateaus left after all the copper and minerals were removed, processed and shipped all over the world. Thus leaving a huge man-made sculpture which will never host any living flora or fauna again.
One person, driving by in early model Ford van, saw that I was out of my vehicle exploring the area dressed in a skirt, blouse, cowboy boots and my white lab coat. He automatically assumed that my transportation was completely incapacitated. I reassured him otherwise. Just grateful that he was a friendly type and not some loner living alone in the hills because he has strong disdain for other human beings and harbors dreadful, harmful thoughts towards all others - especially conceptual artists who also happen to work in the medical field. What I won’t risk for my patients ---- and art!