Katherine Monaghan is a trained printmaker, but she makes her prints with unusual tools: hardware-store washers and rusty water.
Monaghan first plunges the washers—round metal discs with holes in the middle—into acid to remove their slick zinc coating, and then lines them up by the hundreds on gessoed paper, she explained the other day at Atlas Fine Art Services, where a half-dozen of her works are hanging. The gallery's three-person exhibition, A Marred Geometry, ends with a closing reception this Saturday night, June 2, during the Summer Art Cruise openings.
"I lay them out and create a grid," Monaghan said of her washers. "Then I take an eyedropper of liquid—like rusty water—and put it in the holes."
As the liquid moves across the washers, the color transfers to the paper, and pretty soon, hundreds of rust-colored circles appear across the surface. Once in a while, to get some variation in the tones, Monaghan drops dark tea into the holes. For a big piece called "Fe203n.H2O Tucson 4," (Fe203n is the chemical formula for rust), she put tea in every other washer, creating alternating circles of dark and light.
The work is a mesmerizing abstraction—your eye can't help but trace geometric patterns. One minute, you follow diagonal lines that seem to shoot across the circles; the next minute, you see triangles dancing.
But Monaghan also added some blue ink, and left a band of light at the bottom. "I view it as a monsoon cloud and rain coming down on the Earth," she said. "A lot of my work has to do with liquid and rain."
A Marred Geometry also shows the work of a mysterious Texan by the name of Mel Hombre, and ceramicist Mary Lou Alberetti of Connecticut. A self-taught artist, Hombre makes exquisite grids, too, but he draws them painstakingly in ink on paper, and layers colored acrylic washes behind the lines. Alberetti's architectural wall works, suggesting Mediterranean arches, are faded and decayed, and often have 3-D grid patterns inside. 41 S. Sixth Ave.; 622-2139; reception 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday.
Monaghan's arty love for liquids is a good fit for the popular Summer Art Cruise. Art-lovers may not be able to sail, precisely, but they can take a dry-land voyage Saturday evening through downtown and the Warehouse Arts District, where eight galleries are staging simultaneous receptions. Organized by the Central Tucson Gallery Association, or the CTGA, the popular event is free, and most galleries put out food and drink. A few even provide entertainment.
Congress Street is closed for construction of the streetcar tracks, but James Schaub of Atlas and the other downtown gallerists are eager to get the word out that they're still open for business.
"It's really easy to get here," said James Prillaman of Obsidian Gallery, despite the excavations on Congress. Following Prillaman's directions—go west on Broadway Boulevard; stay in the middle lane, and head straight onto Toole Avenue—I had no trouble on a busy weekday finding my way to Obsidian, located in the Historic Depot Plaza, and landing a primo parking spot right out front.
For Summer Art Cruise, Obsidian is kicking off a series of Summer Solo shows. First up is Gerard Justin Ferrari, a Minnesota ceramicist new to the gallery. Ferrari has created a group of terra cotta works in the Poisoned Cocoon series, finely crafted but dangerous-looking little wall sculptures that have wheels—and claws—that move and turn.
"Growth #7 With Winigma Face Mask," for instance, is a dragon-like affair on wheels, with sharp spikes down the belly. The creature has a masked face, and it's gobbling up a tiny human. In an artist's statement, Ferrari wrote that the series "is inspired by the birth of my son and my instinctive need to protect and nurture him."
The gallery will also exhibit samples of work by the rest of its 80 or so artists, and selected artists will be rotated into the solo slot throughout the summer. Next up is Gary Swimmer, a Tucsonan who has his drawings fabricated into airy metal wall hangings. 410 N. Toole Ave.; 577-3598; www.obsidian-gallery.com; 6 to 9 p.m.
A short walk away, Sacred Machine Gallery continues its group show Beyond the Sacred Music and Art Festival. Eighteen artists gathered by proprietor/painter/rock musician Daniel Martin Diaz share his taste for the sacred, the skeletal and the spooky. Locals with works on view include Diaz himself, Valerie Galloway, Elizabeth Frank, Rhod Lauffer, Nick Georgiou and Titus Castanza. 245 E. Congress St., No. 123; 777-7403; www.sacredmachine.com; party goes from 7 to midnight.
Around the corner, The Drawing Studio puts a spotlight on its adult students in Fundamental Skills, an exhibition of work from the studio's drawing classes. 33 S. Sixth Ave.; 620-0947; www.thedrawingstudio.org; 6 to 9 p.m.
Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery is a seven-block stroll south of Congress Street. Philabaum and Phriends exhibits new work from proprietor Tom Philabaum and his pals. For his Precarious Rocks series, Philabaum stacks glistening globes of colored glass one atop the other. The gallery isn't open for the evening receptions, but if you set sail in the late afternoon, you can still see some glass. 711 S. Sixth Ave.; 884-7404; www.philabaumglass.com; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cruise on up to the Sixth and Sixth neighborhood to see four more galleries. Conrad Wilde Gallery, now operating in a smaller space at the corner of Sixth and Sixth, opens Addition/Subtraction Saturday night. Eight artists exhibit 14 works in the adventurous media for which the gallery is known: "reclaimed" sweaters, cast paper, altered books, encaustics, PVC piping and one old reliable: oil paint.
Sweater artist Renee Prisble cut the knitted discards and "made them into orbs like fungi," gallery director Miles Conrad said. "They're monochrome"—nothing but orange sweaters in one piece—"and sculptural."
A new co-op, Tucson Contemporary Gallery, in the old Wilde space, faltered in the bad economy and shut down, according to Conrad. But Wilde itself is hanging on.
"This is the right size for us now," Conrad said. "We're super-proud of the new show." 439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 195; 622-8997; www.conradwildegallery.com; 6 to 9 p.m.
A few doors west, Davis Dominguez Gallery is having fun with Small Things Considered: 20th Small Works Invitational. More than 80 artists contributed teensy pieces. Look for the lovely blue "The Birds and the Bees," a painting by Moira Geoffrion, as well as offerings from Jim Waid, Nancy Tokar Miller and Barbara Rogers, a Tucson artist and retired professor profiled in the new book Barbara Rogers: The Imperative of Beauty. 154 E. Sixth St.; 629-9759; www.davisdominguez.com; 6 to 8 p.m.
Contreras Gallery turns serious with Radiance, an exhibition of paintings by Carmen R. Sonnes about the deaths of migrants in Arizona's deserts. One of her mixed-media paintings will be raffled off during the evening, with the proceeds going to No More Deaths, whose members help border-crossers in trouble. 110 E. Sixth St.; 398-6557; www.contrerashousefineart.com; 6 to 10 p.m.
Raices Taller 222 Workshop and Studio closes its all-women exhibition Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres. The 86 works, in a wide variety of media, roam all over the female map, from body image to gender roles, from tragedy to triumph. The evening's entertainment features a female writer and a singer: yours truly doing a reading from The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories From the Arizona Borderlands at 7 p.m., and musician Delania Caveletto performing at 8 p.m. 218 E. Sixth St.; 881-5335; raicestaller222.webs.com; reception 6 to 10 p.m.
CTGA member Joseph Gross Gallery doesn't open for Summer Art Cruise, but you can visit on weekdays. Above and Below exhibits the work of Yale-educated artist Josh Keyes all summer long. His paintings evoke "an almost post-apocalyptic urban landscape," according to a press release. Free; 1031 N. Olive Road.; 626-4215; cfa.arizona.edu/galleries; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.