When Linda Rosenfield's Great Uncle Phil died, a lifetime of photos almost got tossed in the trash.
His fine black-and-white prints captured New York City in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, picturing people, buildings, streets.
"He was not simply a snap shooter," says Rosenfield, a photographer herself. "He would develop and print his own images at a time when this was most unusual."
But when he died, childless, the family members cleaning up his New York apartment saw no reason to save them.
At the crucial moment—"I happened to be there"—Rosenfield rescued the cache of prints and negatives. She held on to Uncle Phil's images for years, not knowing just yet how she would use them. Eventually, she turned them into combo mixed-media pieces, painting over them and allowing passages of the underlying photos to show through.
This weekend, during the annual fall Open Studios Tour, visitors can get a peek at some of these haunting new-old works.
Rosenfield will be one of almost 170 artists throwing open their studio doors to the public as part of the free, self-guided tour. Primarily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, artists from sculptors, glass artists and jewelry-makers to fiber artists, painters and photographers will show off their works in the spaces where they were created. Gallery 801, at 801 N. Main Ave., is hosting a preview reception, featuring one work from every participating artist, on Thursday, Nov. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Rosenfield will start her day more leisurely, opening her doors at noon. She's in historic Armory Park, south of downtown, and visitors to her front-room studio can check out the early 20th-century architecture along with the art. Plus, they can explore the culinary arts: Like most of the other artists, Rosenfield will be offering edible treats alongside the aesthetic ones.
"I love to bake," she says. "I use my (backyard) fig tree as an inspiration and make fig treats. This year, I'm making a fig cake."
Some artists will do demos during the tour, but Rosenfield likes to devote her time to chatting with visitors. The Tucson Pima Arts Council sponsors the tours in part to help artists market their work, and Rosenfield says people are often in a mood to buy. She'll have some 25 artworks for visitors to peruse.
The humans in the new work are a first for Rosenfield, who served for years as director of the Pima Community College West art gallery, now known at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery.
"I've never worked figuratively before," she says. "It's a new area for me. I love doing it."
One previous series focused on the architecture of downtown Tucson. She photographed 30 or 40 buildings, many of them now gone, and had the prints photocopied on thick charcoal paper; she then hand-painted the papers.
"I never really did straight photography," Rosenfield explains. "I always wanted to somehow manipulate that."
In the new collaborations with her late Uncle Phil, the black-and-white images show through the colors eerily, like faded remnants of the past.
In "Rose's Encounter," an anxious older woman, dressed in a '30s-style apron and housedress, sits in a rocking chair. Rosenfield has painted thickly over the original, and Rose's "real-life" face bleeds through the paint. The shades of gray on the photographic print contrast with the bright cerulean and rust of the paint. Above her hovers an angel—something Uncle Phil likely never saw—beaming its beatific face toward her. Past and present, heaven and earth merge in a single layered work.
Ghe self-guided Open Studios Tour ranges all over greater Tucson. Tour-goers can print out a map from the TPAC Web site, or pick up copies at the artists' studios. Rosenfield is at 619 S. Fifth Ave., No. 3 (792-2329); several other artists are nearby in Armory Park. Janet K. Miller, well-known for her reverse-glass paintings, is showing a new series incorporating old maps at her place at 522 S. Fifth Ave. (624-8709).
Also in the vicinity are Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery, 711 S. Sixth Ave. (884-7404), and the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, 633 W. 18th St. (884-7814). The Labor Temple Studios at 267 S. Stone Ave. (575-0505) house five artists: Jean Beck (watercolors), Diane Colligan (mixed media), Elizabeth Frank (mixed media and sculpture), Sheila Kanter (watercolor and collage) and Phyllis Woods (jewelry).
Art-goers in the mood for a drive can go the far edges of the suburbs. The northernmost artist is Marnie Ehlers of Good Muse Designs, who plies her jewelry, metals and sculpture at 8570 N. Delta Way (390-6627), near Thornydale and Cortaro Farms roads. Elena Díaz Bjorkquist gets the prize for easternmost. The author of Suffer Smoke and Water From the Moon, Bjorkquist also makes 3-D art. She'll show her clay and ceramics at 4645 N. Soldier Trail (760-3279), near East Snyder Road.
A transplant from the south, portrait and mural painter Sandra Saltness Parks has the southernmost studio, at 6137 E. Window Ridge Lane, near the freeway and Wilmot Road (777-5144). Most western is Ron Schoonejongen, at 4250 N. Old Ranch Road, near Manville and Sandario roads (682-0427). At his appropriately named Desert Sunset Gallery, Schoonejongen displays photographs, digital and mixed-media work. Schoonejongen's artist neighbor, Judy Nakari, at Saguaro Studio, 4305 N. Sanders Road (682-8004), will show her paintings.
But for artistic density, the inner city, including downtown and the nearby neighborhoods, yields the most artists per square inch. In an unlikely location between Stone and Oracle Road, north of Grant, the handsome Tucson Artist Colony in Placita de la Luna at 2409 N. Castro Ave. (270-6351) houses a band of realist painters. Welcoming guests will be Brenda Semanick (oil and water color), Hope Cunningham and Robert Goldman. These artists also offer art classes in the complex, located north of the Yaqui neighborhood. The original placita adobe is said to date from 1934, with its adobe bricks hand-crafted by Yaqui workers.
The arty neighborhoods west of the UA, from Euclid Avenue west to the railroad tracks, offer fertile ground for artist hunters of artists. Numerous group studios dot these quarters. The Seventh Avenue Arts District Studios at 549 N. Seventh Ave. (624-7419) shelter numerous participants, including painters Joel Bean and Dawn Carlson, mixed-media artist K. Loren Dawn and weaver Crane Day. Nearby at 125 E. Fifth St., Karen Hymer-Thompson and Kathleen Velo (248-7215) practice the art of mixed media and photography.