Occasionally he takes on the Pacific coast, picturing its tumbling waves in such near-abstractions as "Swell" and "Morning Surf," but more often, it's the landscape around Tucson that stars in his buttery works, now on view at Davis Dominguez Gallery.
"Elephant Head," one of eight small plein air studies, conjures up the open country south of town. In Martin's long view, the pink-painted peak becomes a tiny grace note beneath a giant Western sky, which in turn is filled with clouds colored deep blue, ochre and gray. "Sawtooth," another fresh, quick work, puts a pair of saguaros in the foreground, below a sky wild in gray and white.
Martin also goes for the gargantuan. "Massive, Over the Catalinas" is an oil on canvas that's at least 3 feet long and more than 4 feet high. The long ridgeline of the city's favorite mountains stretches horizontally across the bottom of the painting, nearly dwarfed by the giant clouds overhead. Two separate storms drop torrents of rain on two widely separated canyons, one at the east end of the Catalinas, the other at the west. Those massive clouds are tinged with rose, while the land below is painted sage green and brown.
A big picture in every sense of the word--big size, big landscape, big ambition--"Massive" could serve as an emblem for this weekend's Big Picture extravaganza. Seven galleries in the Central Tucson Gallery Association (eight, if you count Santa Theresa Tileworks, which is not officially a member) fling open their doors this Saturday night, Oct. 1, to mark the beginning of the art season. The painting's optimism mirrors the hopes of gallery owners.
"This is our sixth year of Big Picture," says Mike Dominguez, who co-owns Davis Dominguez with his wife, Candice Davis. "We're all hopeful (that) if we coordinate the assets this town has today, we can do spectacularly."
That said, Dominguez laments the loss of Falk Gallery, which closed its doors this summer.
"Jason (Falk) is gone after five years. We miss him," he notes, while adding, "That's the way this business goes."
On the plus side, the association recently welcomed a brand-new contemporary gallery, Conrad Wilde, which set up shop in the vacated Dinnerware space on Fourth Avenue. Dinnerware has re-invented itself in a fresh new space in the Steinfeld Warehouse, and two newcomers from last year, FALA and Platform, celebrate their first anniversaries this month, after surviving their first slow Tucson summer.
"I'm happy October is here," says FALA's Lauren Gregersen-Brown. "Things are starting to pick up."
Dominguez says the gallery owners also are buoyed up by the arrival of new Tucson Museum of Art director Robert Knight and Albert Stewart, new director of Pima Community College's Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, both of whom say they're eager to collaborate with other enterprises. In the meantime, the gallery association has just published a spiffy new brochure, complete with a map, listing nine galleries and three museums in midtown, along with 17 restaurants.
"We're going to keep this up," Dominguez promises. "As the years go by, we hope to do studio tours and even an art fair."
Most of the galleries will open their regular hours in the afternoon, and then re-open with refreshments for the gala Big Picture openings. The epicenter is at Sixth and Sixth in the Warehouse District, with a few galleries to the southeast on Fourth Avenue, and another to the west, at Sixth Street and the railroad tracks. Here's a guide, geographically organized.
· Davis Dominguez, 154 E. Sixth St., pairs the works of the cheerful Martin with more disturbing paintings by Charlotte Bender. Her oil paintings on canvas and mixed-media works on paper picture landscapes and objects loosely wrapped in cloth. "Forming Earth," an oil on canvas, looks like a Grand Canyon wrapped in brown-and-white-striped mattress ticking. "Maya-n," another big oil, is a close-up of giant pyramid steps, lavishly draped in a cloth delicately glowing in pink, violet and green. "Why" pictures a huge crevasse in a landscape, wrapped in that same brown-and-white ticking. The strange wrappings sometimes seem cozy and loving, as if the landscape had been tucked in by a kindly grandma. But they also evoke body bags and death. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; reception 6 to 8 p.m. 629-9759; email@example.com.
The old Firestone Building, at 439 N. Sixth Ave., on the northwest corner of Sixth and Sixth, houses three galleries and a café.
· FALA Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., solos the recent work of Alison Dunn, a Phoenix painter whose minimalist work riffs on romantic paintings of the 19th century. Her 13 pieces on view use everything from wax and oils to canvas and white velvet. "They're reminiscent of Oriental screenings," says gallery owner Gregersen-Brown. "The images are melancholy, of flowers and clouds." Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; reception 6 to 9 p.m. 628-4183; firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Platform Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., has two shows: a group and a solo. Behind Our Eyes showcases the figurative work of six local and regional artists, including Pasqualina Azzarello, who made her name painting the Stone Avenue murals near Limberlost Drive, and Gwyneth Scally, who right now has a solo show at the TMA. Also showing are Jack Balas, Craig Cully, Andrea Evans and Mike Wirtz. Solo artist Justin DeGarmo gets the back gallery all to himself. Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; reception 6 to 9 p.m. 882-3886; email@example.com.
· Santa Theresa Tileworks, 439 N. Sixth Ave., will show off handmade tiles by a variety of artists, including workshop owner Susan Gamble, famed for her Santa Cruz River tileworks. "We'll have our Day of the Dead altar up," says Leslie Gamble. "It's cool, with skeletons." Visitors may also stop at the auxiliary café, Flying Saucer, for cappuccino and pastries. Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; café hours 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both will re-open 7 to 9 p.m. 623-1856.
· Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Workshop, 222 E. Sixth St., Tucson's only Latino gallery, exhibits Captured Time, an invitational show of sculpture and photography. Hours: 1 to 5 pm. Saturday; reception 7 to 10 p.m. 811-5335; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two galleries stand side by side on lower Fourth Avenue, just north of the underpass to downtown.
· The Drawing Studio, 214 N. Fourth Ave., offers up an informal Push Pin exhibit, a collection of work by gallery artists and students. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Saturday; reception 6 to 9 p.m. 620-0947; email@example.com.
· Conrad Wilde Gallery, 210 N. Fourth Ave., exhibits collages by Cory Peeke, an art professor and curator at Eastern Oregon University. The contemporary-art pieces range from teeny-tiny to small. "I just unpacked the work," reports gallery owner Miles Conrad. "The largest piece is about 14 by 9 inches. The smallest are like chips of paint at the hardware store." Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; reception 6 to 9 p.m. 622-8997; firstname.lastname@example.org.
One gallery is the pioneer in the western warehouse district, which bristles with artists' studios.
· Dinnerware Contemporary Arts, 101 W. Sixth St., at Ninth Avenue, opens an exhibition of art donated to its annual fundraising auction. The gala auction, a Tucson tradition, takes place Saturday, Oct. 22.
"At this point, we have 94 artists," enthuses new gallery director Sarah Hardesty, who says that the new space is "great--it's going really well. It's been nice having people come in." The art to be auctioned covers a gamut of media, and its creators include emerging artists and old Tucson hands. "Tom Philabaum came in today with a really beautiful glass piece," and another standout is "Wandering Quiet," a painting in oil, pumice and charcoal by Ann Tracy-Lopez, who normally shows at Liz Hernandez Gallery. "It's an abstract, with four sections of color, and one section within a section, layered spirals, a circle and an amorphous cylindrical shape, like a stone." Hours: noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday; reception 6 to 9 p.m. 792-4503; email@example.com.
Three member galleries won't be open Saturday night. Still, they'll have their usual afternoon hours. Philabaum, 711 S. Sixth Ave., 884-7404, open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will stage glass-blowing demos. Joseph Gross, at the UA, 626-4215, open noon to 5 p.m., exhibits Zang Tumb Tumb II, an installation by Alastair Noble. Pima's Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, 2202 W. Anklam Road, 206-6942, from 1 to 5 p.m., showcases Sri Lanka After the Tsunami, photographs by Pima photog department head Ann Simmons-Myers.