The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

69° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Test your street smarts: tour Tucson’s studios for free

    Test your street smarts: tour Tucsons studios for free

    Don’t know much about art? Begin to educate yourself by becoming familiar with the art scene here in Tucson. This weekend’s Open Studio Tour, otherwise known as the gallery walk, is an opportunity to do just that. This semiannual event put on by the Pima Arts Council features 117 different artists in 61 locations around town who open up their studios to the public for viewing. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase artwork in the form of sculpture, painting, bookmaking and glassblowing. The Arizona Daily Wildcat has taken a closer look at three artists who will be holding receptions Saturday night.

    Jack Bybee

    The unique color scheme and the sculptures that adorn the driveway are immediate indicators that the green and purple home on South Second Avenue is the dwelling of a creative individual.

    Art professor Aurore Chabot owns the home and rents out part of the two-story studio in the back to Jack Bybee, a senior majoring in psychology, creative writing and studio art.

    Bybee, a vibrant 60-year-old native of South Africa, creates works with acrylic, pastel and pen and ink that primarily illustrate both South African and Arizonan landscapes.

    The artist, who is vocal about his political opinions, finds a purpose in his choice of subject matter that goes beyond aesthetic inspiration.

    “”Man has destroyed the environment so much that I want to capture nature as much as I can,”” Bybee said. “”I came here (to the United States) in 1982 looking for the Kennedy era, and all I found was Reagan, Bush the father and Bush the son.””

    His attempt in capturing escaping landscapes is one of the attributes that might set him apart from other artists in the impressionist genre in which he has been categorized. Bybee speaks of his own identity in his work with passion.

    “”I want my art to be known as the art of Jack Bybee,”” Bybee said. “”I loathe it when someone says ‘Oh that’s so Faulk, that’s so much like Monet.’ It has nothing to do with Monet, it has to do with Jack Bybee because it’s coming from the inside.””

    From his homeland of South Africa, Bybee got on a Boeing 747 and landed in New York. It wasn’t until approximately 15 years later, while going through a divorce, that he decided he was ready for a change in location. After talking with an acquaintance at a diner, he came up with the idea of coming to the Southwest.

    “”I said, ‘Well, what’s Tucson like?'”” Bybee said. “”And he said, ‘It’s dry, it’s desert, it’s wonderful,’ and I said that sounds like the Western Cape.””

    On the contrary, Bybee said his homeland’s environment is unique from anything he has seen here in the states.

    “”Africa is a very dramatic continent,”” Bybee said. “”The beauty is not like northern New Jersey or Oregon. The coast of Oregon is serene beauty; it’s green, it’s gentle rolling hills. In Africa, wham,”” he said, dramatically throwing his hands up for emphasis.

    Comparison of scenery, particularly between the Western Cape and the Sonoran Desert, is something Bybee is further researching in his honors project under his mentor, UA art professor Alfred Quiroz.

    This concept is apparent in his work “”Robot and Reeds.””

    “”It captures the mood,”” commented Tucson glassblower Tom Philabaum, another participant of the tour, who viewed Bybee’s work on the day of the interview.

    Bybee said it’s important for others to see his work not only because it satisfies his creative efforts but because it also contributes to his success in a competitive business.

    Being self-employed, Bybee heavily relies on methods of networking.

    “”I’m a great believer in guerrilla marketing,”” Bybee said. “”It’s a wonderful concept, word of mouth. I don’t pay for advertising.””

    Bybee’s pieces normally range from $175 to $500.

    “”If I sold one or two, I could probably turn a profit and buy a six-pack or two,”” Bybee said.

    Aurore Chabot

    Down the stairs from Bybee’s low-ceilinged domain, lies Chabot’s studio, which consists of a jumble of objects that make for a good alliteration: tables, tiles and tools.

    “”I started picking up a pencil at 4, and I drew everything in sight,”” Chabot said. “”I haven’t stopped since.””

    And she really hasn’t. A sculptor and participant in public art, Chabot began her formal artistic training at Pratt Institute, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1971, and then went on to graduate school at Colorado University.

    “”It’s a very concentrated time and place to start to be a serious artist,”” Chabot said of her graduate school experience.

    On top of teaching, Chabot has headed up two public art projects in Arizona: one at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport and the other at the Marley building on the UA campus.

    The Sky Harbor project, constructed outside the southeast entrance in 2002, is a mural of tiles in Southwestern hues of brick red, green and taupe. Each tile is “”chock-full of imagery,”” Chabot said.

    The Sky Harbor project and the Marley building are concepts of Chabot’s. However, once decisions about shapes and colors were made, she is able to hand labor over to others. It was a less intimate experience, she said, than creating her own clay sculptures.

    “”This is about getting something to be a part of architecture after the fact,”” Chabot said. “”I like that. I like making something that’s not ego-based.””

    One of Chabot’s pieces will be present at the tour. “”Tipping Points,”” a zigzag-shaped clay figure, with stripes painted on certain sections and finger-like shapes exuding out of the end.

    “”I wanted that part to be really exaggerated, as if it had a growth,”” Chabot said. “”It kind of looks like a cacti too.””

    The figure begins wide and works its way into a closure.

    “”One side says I’m open to things,”” Chabot said. “”The other says, ‘here I am, but don’t get too close.'””

    Steve Holmes

    “”I knew when I was 17 I would be making things,”” said Steve Holmes, an artist participating in the tour.

    After high school, Holmes, a Scottsdale native, attended and then dropped out of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles due to financial obligations and because he wasn’t emotionally ready.

    While later working as a truck driver, Holmes received a traffic citation, the ticket to his career.

    Holmes chose to serve his community service for the citation at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. After spending the duration of two days “”digging up stuff,”” Holmes gravitated toward the people there and that particular work environment.

    He inquired about further opportunity at the museum.

    “”I said something like, ‘If something comes up, give me a call,'”” Holmes said. “”Two months later, they did.””

    The museum introduced Holmes to welding and making fiberglass molds, which form the basis for his personal work.

    The artificial rocks that Holmes produces line up side by side in his yard. Holmes makes the sculptural landscape pieces by finding a unique rock, molding a duplicate, cutting out an intricate shape from the top and bottom, glazing them and then chiseling the exterior to give a rugged aesthetic.

    Although sometimes the rock is the finished product, other times Holmes will plant a cactus or similar plant in the opening of the rock.

    Pieces range from $20 for a small rock without a plant to $270 for a much larger rock with a plant in full bloom.

    Holmes, who does some still-life modeling for the UA’s art department and occasionally does a non-art-related welding job, says his work “”is almost paying the bills.””

    “”I have a new-found respect for the small-business man,”” Holmes said. “”It’s linear, it’s goal-oriented, it’s making phone calls, but it comes with a territory.””

    One of the unique pieces that Holmes has outside his studio is an open, rosette-shaped rock with broken pieces of mirror lining the interior. The asking price for the piece is $700.

    “”Pricing is a tricky thing, especially with art because it’s not an immediate need. Either you like it or you don’t,”” Holmes said. “”I have galleries tell me I’m not charging enough and nurseries telling me I’m charging too much.””

    Aside from making a living, Holmes creates for self-fulfillment.

    “”A lot of my work specifically is about meeting unmet needs,”” Holmes said. “”We don’t make things we already have. We make things to fill some void in some way, maybe not even adequately.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search