Something really exceptional has descended upon Tucson. It's a group of exhibits called Tucson Rocks, it aims to "Celebrate the Art of Rock & Roll", and as far as I've seen, it is wildly successful in it's mission.
Let's start with Etherton Gallery. A side note - one should always start with Etherton Gallery. Have they ever mounted an exhibit that wasn't stellar? This show, entitled “Rockin' the Desert” features two photographers, Baron Wolman & Lynn Goldsmith. In the cavernous, studious space, rock and roll is treated as a grand, sweeping subject, like The Grand Canyon or Ansel Adams' Yellowstone. Etherton's presentation is reverential. There's something incongruous — but enjoyable - about using hushed tones to discuss rock & roll, and that is exactly what visitors will feel compelled to do as they stroll through this magnificent exhibit. I found myself looking for my parents in these images. Not my actual parents, because I'm not a complete idiot, rather I looked intently into the faces of the fans in these photographs for clues as to what social and cultural experiences helped make my parents the people they are.
The good thing about being a picture framer, is that sometimes an exhibit comes to me well before the public sees it. This was the case with “Tucson Shot Rock”, an exhibit focused (pun not totally avoided) on historically relevant rock photography by Tucson photographers. I had the good fortune of framing about 20 images from the show, and spending a little time with the photographers themselves. This pop-up exhibit on Congress Street next to Sparkroot has all the mess and chaos of a really good rock show. Having grown up with KLPX and KWFM and Time Life box sets, I've always experienced the history of rock as a well-packaged and processed entity. Seeing these photographs that have likely been in an archive somewhere for decades, brought me the realization that the people depicted - fans and musicians alike - had no idea that they were literally creating musical history. Sure, you will see some iconic images of Hendrix in the studio, Morrison onstage, and a then-unknown Madonna at a party, but expect to be equally enthralled by images of anonymous fans at Woodstock, the people that birthed the ethos that still exists in rock today. “Tucson Shot Rock”, lovingly and skillfully curated by David Olsen of Zocalo Magazine, is open every weekend in October.
I intend to visit the rest of the exhibits that fall under the “Tucson Rocks” umbrella. But until then, get yourselves to these galleries!
Nathan Saxton is the owner/operator of Borealis Arts.