Up on a hill, outside Sharon Holnback's 1880s ranchhouse, artist Kyle Hansen has landed an 8-foot-tall UFO that emits both sound and light.
Elsewhere on the Triangle L's lush desert acreage outside Oracle, she is planting an ethereal female figure made entirely of packing tape. Otto Rigan is covering a tree in gold leaf, and Lisa Trease is contributing a "large surreal female figure made of silk flowers, branches and butterflies."
What all this outdoor art means is that GLOW is back. Now in its 15th year, GLOW is a desert celebration of light in the autumnal darkness, with artwork—preferably lighted—twinkling along the cactus paths on five acres of Holnback's 50-acre guest ranch.
This year Holnback expects more than 50 sculptures—and maybe 100 if you count the many "bottle dioramas" she's putting in the shrine garden. And she'll have four different bands, each playing on the mainstage on four different Saturday nights.
"It's a wonderful event," Holnback says. "People love it. I love it."
Yet GLOW's 15th installment may be its last.
"I don't want to say it will be the last GLOW for sure," Holnback explains, "but it should be treated like the last one, a really good one."
Holnback, an artist herself who runs the Triangle L as a bed and breakfast, says that her vision has shifted over the years. Instead of the once-a-year GLOW extravanganza she's moving toward "creating a full-time sculpture and art venue."
Last April, she inaugurated the High Desert Art and Nature Park on five of the ranch's acres. She's imagining having regular art events in the park, smaller than GLOW, but held more often. And she's building up a "semi-permanent or permanent" sculpture collection for the park.
"We already have incredible pieces," she says, all of them on view during GLOW. They include Judith Stewart's " beautiful bronze of a female torso"" and Fox McGrew's hanging clay-and-metal lanterns. Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead donated an iteration of their giant poet's head that now stands near the UA Poetry Center.
Holnback has taken steps to make GLOW more manageable. Instead of crowding several evenings' worth of events into a single week, this year, GLOW will glisten on four Saturday nights—Sept. 19 and 26, and Oct. 17 and 24—which means it won't always play out under the full moon. (The full will rise over Oracle on Sept. 28 and Oct. 27.) Visitors will be strictly limited to 500 per night and admission is by advance tickets only.
Events will take place throughout the five designated art acres. Since its beginning in 2004, the art party has always included live music, both in the far gardens and on an outdoor stage in a dry wash. One year there was belly-dancing in the barn, courtesy of Susan Eyde, and another year fire dancing.
In 2006, there was an inexplicable Pinal County deputy sheriffs' raid that shut down GLOW, and had musician Gary Mackender pulled from the stage and handcuffed. (See "Event Cut Short," Tucson Weekly, Sept. 21, 2006). But even that surreal scene ended in art: Mackender memorialized the fracas in the song "Black Cloud over Oracle."
This year's festival is in the same spirit. Bradley Ronsick's "flying drone with lights" will patrol the grounds. A labyrinth lined with small rocks will wend its way through the outdoor Celestial Theater. In addition to the headline bands, acoustic musicians will play in the shrine garden. And Holnback herself is creating art.
"I'm making clouds out of aluminum screen" for the Zen Garden, she says, "and we're experimenting on Gasoline Alley." That alley will be a series of totems that pay homage to light, in the form of "55-gallon drums cut out like luminarias and lit from inside."