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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson gets RAW

    Photo courtesy of Peter James Romano

    This weekend, basement-bound and self-made Tucson artists will share their talents in the city’s semifinal round of this year’s RAWards show, an annual indie art showcase that aims to shine the spotlight on underground artistry.

    RAW is an independent arts organization that features artists on the both local and international levels. An annual competition is held in more than 80 cities across the U.S., where underground artists can compete in the categories of art, fashion, music, film, hair, makeup, photography and performing art.

    On Friday, RAW will announce the winners of the Tucson semifinals in each category, who will then move on to the national competition.

    “They all are the best of the best in their categories, and they deserve to be honored,” said Laura Fischer, event director for Tucson RAW artists. “It’s going to be amazing to see the best artists come together in this showcase.”

    Fischer said this year’s RAWards began in March, with shows conducted every three months leading up to the Friday semifinals.

    The Tucson judges have narrowed down the competition based on criteria including creativity, originality, professionalism, the “wow” factor and quality.

    Musical semifinalist Sock!Fight made its debut as a band at RAW one year ago and has since solidified its standing in the underground music community.

    “We all bring a little something to the table,” said Uma deSilva, lead vocalist and keyboardist of Sock!Fight. “People usually tend to remember something about us, which is fantastic.”

    Since forming in May 2012, Sock!Fight has drawn musical inspiration from bands like the Pixies and Berlin. Without binding themselves to a specific genre, deSilva said the band members’ sound leans toward “aggressive, indie, dance, pop rock.”

    DeSilva said the band takes artistic lessons from the variety of unique artistic work presented during each showcase.

    “We try to take away a little bit of this and a little bit of that from everything we see,” she said. “We love hearing what [bands] are doing with the same set of notes and the same set of instruments.”

    Sock!Fight made it to the RAW semifinals competition last year and has since been able to network and meet other underground bands.

    “We had no idea how that happened,” deSilva said. “Every time, it’s a surprise, and every time, it’s a delight.”

    DeSilva added that the band sees RAW less as a competition and more as an opportunity to perform its music and network with a like-minded crowd.

    “What I like is that fact that you’re not performing because of a competition, but because it’s a show,” deSilva said, adding that the competition is simply a bonus to the event as a whole. As she prioritized performances and put awards and recognition on the back burner, deSilva said she didn’t even remember she was participating in a competition until voting rolled around.

    But the awards show this weekend isn’t only geared to music. Alyssa Burton won Makeup Artist of the Year in Tucson’s RAW semifinal last year, and has since seen a growth in her artistic recognition and professional career.

    “It really progressed my makeup career,” Burton said. Burton is now a freelance makeup artist and teaches classes at a salon in her free time.

    Although Burton has been practicing her makeup skills for at least 10 years, she said she has been actively pursuing her art in a more professional capacity for the past three years.

    “Makeup really gives me a chance to connect with my creative side,” Burton said.

    Burton studied under Rudy Miles, a leading makeup artist, at the Aveda Institute in Tucson in 2012, and she then decided to compete in RAW.

    “I really didn’t know what to expect when I was jumping into it,” she said.

    Among the other semifinalists in the competition is Jenny Hermalik, the fashion designer behind Heart Strings Couture, who began pursuing her career five years ago. Hermalik said she never dreamed that she would be able to make a career out of her passion for fashion.

    “I was kind of trapped in that mindset of, ‘Well, that’s a really big dream,’” Hermalik said. “But instead of saying, ‘Why me?’ I started saying, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it be you?’”

    Hermalik’s work has been compared to that of Betsey Johnson, as she uses bright colors and prints and experiments with “exuberant, whimsical, elaborate” pieces.

    The designer added that the show this weekend will allow participants to be much more creative than other venues where their work has been displayed.

    “It was my first runway show where I knew I had complete freedom,” Hermalik said, “[RAW] is by far my favorite out of all the shows I’ve done.”

    Follow Casey Knox @Knox_Casey

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