When did you get started being an artist?
I'd say around three years ago, when I lived in a warehouse next door to the Buffet. I lived there for about three years, and before I moved out, I wanted to make it more than my living quarters. All my friends were artists in the downtown area, and I started making dolls and milagros and mobiles, and it was when I did my first painting on a window. I painted on a window because I didn't have any wood or canvas, and it was super-dark in the warehouse, so when I took it outside to see what it looked like, the sun came through the back of it, and that's how I realized how beautiful they could be with the light behind them. So I went back inside the warehouse, and I strung Christmas lights on the back, and I've never painted any other way since.
So I turned the warehouse into an underground art gallery where I would invite 12 to 15 other artists to show and different musicians would play.
So what happened next?
When I moved out of there, I couldn't do it anymore. But I had my first solo show of paintings during Zoe Boutique's fashion show at Heart 5, and the owner of Heart 5 bought my whole collection the next day--my first paintings I've ever painted in my whole life. So I said to him, "If I give you this great deal, you have to allow me to use your space as my personal gallery for as long as I live, and don't ever take a penny from me." So that's been our agreement for the last two, 2 1/2 years, and now I hold the art openings there.
Heart 5 is a dance club, but it's also set up for gallery night. It's a completely different atmosphere. The diversity of people is incredible. Kids come; we have the Big Head Puppets performing; there's music; there's food; there's a full bar--it's probably the most exciting art opening you can go to.
How did you get started with this Flash Gallery on Congress Street?
This is run by the Tucson Arts Coalition. There's so much empty space on Congress. It just seems like Tucson's dead, with all these vacant buildings. So TAC got permission from Doug Biggers to fill these vacant spaces with local artists. And we're going to call it the Flash Art Gallery, and it's going to be moving, because as soon as they start renovating these spaces, we'll find another space to move into.
What were you doing before you became an artist?
I was a certified medical assistant. It's a really long story why I decided to quit that whole field and become an artist. I took care of a homeless man named Oliver, whom I met at Dizzy G's restaurant over on Pennington (Street). ... In a letter that he had written, he said that when it was his time, he was going to ask to look over me for the rest of my life. I really feel it's because of Oliver that I've made it as an artist the way that I have. I've never taken an art class in my entire life. The drive that he's given me, the inspiration that he's given me, I really feel that he has a big part in why I'm doing what I'm doing today.
Was this something that you had wanted to do?
I never, ever had the dream of being an artist.
Are your artist friends all jealous of your incredible, rapid success in the field?
I feel I might have had some jabs in the past from even some of my closest friends, but I think most of them are supportive. ... Any show I've ever had I've invited about a dozen other artists to share it with. I find them more fun and more entertaining and a little more relaxed.
How long have you been in Tucson?
I moved to Tucson from New York about eight years ago. ... I wasn't planning on staying so long. Tucson is a great place to make your dreams come true. If I was in New York, I would not be an artist right now. Tucson is just really supportive of the arts.