Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sunrises (and Sunsets) of Arizona

With my time in Arizona setting like the sun, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this post to its sunsets (and sunrises). Although I've seen some beautiful sunset(rises) elsewhere, the dramatic colors and frequency of such brilliant displays seems to occur at a much higher frequency.

So what causes these brilliant skies? When the sun sets, light shines through more of the atmosphere, when compared to when the sun is higher in the sky. The light is bent, refracted, and reflected from tiny particles in that atmosphere. A lower frequency results in more warmer colors. 

Beyond the basic science, what makes Arizona's sunset(rises) so spectacular? Due to less moisture in the air, the clouds here are much higher. Such higher clouds reflect more light, with dramatic colors. 

With reduced levels of pollution, more variation in visible light can be seen, particularly those vibrant colors at the far end of the spectrum. It seems that dust (and pollution) actually diffuses or scatters color, resulting in a dull or muted sky. 

The presence of high clouds also greatly chances the chance of  dramatic sunset. These higher (and middle) clouds help intercept unadulterated light. 
I like how the higher clouds in the photo above reflected the orange color, making it appear as if those clouds were on fire.

For those willing to get up earlier and deal with the cooler early morning temperatures, the winter and fall months provide rewarding painterly effects.

Boo - back to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Celebrating Western and Native American Art: The Eddie Basha Collection

When a friend of my parents recommended that we visit the Eddie Basha Collection, I wasn't sure what to expect. It was free, and the collection was in the corporate office building of Basha's, a supermarket chain in Arizona. Upon entrance into the first gallery room, I could see that this was not going to be a dusty collection with a few kitche pieces.

One room alone was dedicated to an expansive collection of woven baskets of varying sizes, mostly between the 19th and 20th centuries.
Apache baskets from the Eddie Basha Collection
Yet another expansive room was filled with over 40 years of over 3,500 collected pieces - paintings, sculptures, jewelry, katsinas, and drawings. 
Horse Pirates by Ted Long - Eddie Basha Collection
The collection is considered to be one of the largest private collection of Contemporary Western American and American Indian art. Originally encouraged and guided by his Aunt Zelma, Basha began visiting studios of contemporary artists, kindling friendships and supporting them. He sought to collect pieces of artists he actually met; cowboy artists such as Joe Beeler, John Clymer, David Halbach, and Martin Grelle, as well as contemporary American Indian artists such as David Johns and Larry Yazzie. Absent in his collection are deceased Western artists such as Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, since Basha wanted to focus on contemporary artists he actually met.
Geronimo by Harley Brown - Eddie Basha Collection 
Some of the pieces had rather lengthy descriptions. I especially liked the ones written by the artists, vividly describing historical events seen in the images.

Although we spent nearly three hours in the gallery, we did not have enough time to see all artwork. Actually, it was too much to see in one visit. Perhaps it would have been better to focus on one aspect of the collection, such as the bronzes one day, Native American pieces another day, etc.
The gallery is open to individuals or groups (above 25 people requires an appointment) but it is self-guided. We happily placed some money in the donation box, pleased that the proceeds helped support initiatives within the community, including the arts. 

The Eddie Basha Collection is located at:
22402 S. Basha Road
Chandler, Arizona 85248
Phone: 480-895-5230

It is open Monday - Friday 9-4 pm

Sunday, January 08, 2017

A visit with an Apache Family

This past weekend, we took a 3 1/2 hour drive from Apache Junction to the Fort Apache Reservation in the upper elevations of Arizona. While there, we had a special opportunity to visit an Apache couple. Bonnie is the kindergarten teacher at East Fork Lutheran School. Her husband Francis is an evangelist within the Apache reservation. 
Steps in making a cradeboard
First Bonnie showed us how she makes a cradleboard. The slats are made from the stalk of a yucca plant. For the canopy part, the wooden pieces are bnt through heat; sturdy wire is on the underside. The cradleboard fame is made from local wood and is bent with moisture. She uses foam for padding, but traditionally local fibers were used. 

Cradleboard with Cabbage Patch Baby
The baby was typically secured with two sets of ties; the lower pair could be loosened to change the baby's diaper without much disruption. Bonnie recalled that most infants were quite content within the cradleboard, finding the swaddling nature very comforting. Mothers either strapped the cradleboard over their shoulders or on their foreheads. This baby carrier enabled mothers to continue their chores while maintaining close contact with their infants.
Beaded Bolo Ties with Christian theme
Bonnie then brought out some beaded pieces; some were done by her, while many others were gifts to her and her husband. 
Jesus Wept bolo tie
Bonnie was especially proud of the Christian-themed bolo ties  - a beautiful indication of the Christian faith she and her husband shares. 

Burden Basket with family name

Bonnie also showed us a few other pieces, including a "burden basket" with the family name. Bonnie explained that the metal "tassels" at the ends once served as alarm signals. While the women were gathering berries or other items with the basket, if the metal began clanking excitedly, the men would know the women might be in some sort of danger (i.e. from warring tribes). 

With the football game completed, Francis joined in the conversation, sharing with us his experience coming to faith, as an evangelist to his community, and being a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Both shared some touching personal experiences and their concerns for their Apache brethren. When I later found out that our visit within the home on the reservation was quite unusual, I felt quite honored. Such a personal touch made the experience so much more powerful.

Monday, January 02, 2017

My latest Artwork: Bhunga and Bandhani, Gujarat (Color Pencil)

Here is my latest artwork, a color pencil composition of a Gujarat woman inside a Bhunga home in the Gujarat, whose walls were covered with mirror-work known as Lippan. She was wearing a heavy silver necklace, anklets, bangles, and gold earrings and nose ring. Her clothing is in Bandhani tie-dye. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Saguaros of Arizona

If there was one symbol that defined the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, it would have to be the Saguaro. (Yes, that's me in the photo above, hugging the saguaro. Not something I'd normally do, but this one's base was decaying and had lost its needles). 
Here are some interesting facts about the saguaro. Although the cactus can reach up to heights of 40-60 feet (12-18 meters), it is actually rather slow-growing. In its first 8 years of life, the saguaro might only be 1 1/2 inches (3.81 cm) tall. It often starts its life under the protection of an ironwood or mesquite "nurse tree." Once it begins growing, it absorbs the nutrients and water from the nurse tree, thus killing it. The Saguaro has a very shallow root system (4-6 inches), with one root stem going two feet. The root system typically is as wide as the height of the cactus. It can weigh up to 4,800 pounds (2,177 kg). 
A Saguaro typically grows its first "arm" at around 50-70 years of age. Up to 25 arms may be found on a saguaro. It first bloom appears around 30 years. At only around 125 years of age is it considered and "adult" saguaro. They generally die around 150-175 years of age, but may reach 200 years. Once the cactus dies, its interior woody ribs can be used to build furniture, fences, or roofs. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Petroglyphs of Superstition Mountain

On this beautiful December day, we went on a hike in the southwest corner of Superstition Wilderness, a short ride east of Apache Junction. The well-traveled path took us past a wide variety of cactus, shrubs, and rock formations. Still within the Christmas break, people of all ages were returning from a hike - a good indication that the trail's rating of easy-to-moderate was accurate. 

As we neared the Hieroglyphics Canyon, the rocks on the path became larger and some climbing was needed. The sounds of rushing water mingled with the squeals of laughter and excitement of kids who were enjoying splashing in the water.

The petroglyphs, etched into the rock by the Hohokam Native Americans who lived in the area from 500-1450 AD. The dark desert varnish patina found on these rocks made an excellent surface for carving the imagery. (Early settlers mistakenly called them hieroglyphics in reference to those linguistic symbols in Egypt, but they are in fact petroglyphs, or rock paintings)

Some of the lower rocks also contained more modern carvings– or should I say, graffiti. 

Any symbolic meaning of the petroglyphs has not been determined. I saw what looked like snakes, lizards, and goats.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Remembering our Savior

A blessed Christmas to all! Remembering the birth of our Savior on this Christmas Day.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
- Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)