Today we are pleased to feature Xanthe Miller as our Authors Talk series contributor. While being interviewed by Stephanie Welch, Xanthe touches on many aspects of her work including the social issues they speak to and her own personal relationship to art. We get an inside look at her artistic process and intent in creating pieces of art that will “endure long after we’re gone.”
Xanthe uses recycled materials to construct her work, which started when she began to see the objects as “pieces of little, tiny cities” and decided to build those cities herself. She is particularly concerned with migrant life and is “drawn to issues of environmental justice” because of her own experience and background in the American Southwest, which led her to use a lot of Southwestern artistic motifs in her work. In attempting to portray the various ideas and themes she wishes to address with her art, she notes that they typically “start with a color, or sometimes two colors, and the relationship they could have with each other.” The process seems to start so simply and, yet it becomes something so much more complex and powerful.
Xanthe comments that “art always felt unapproachable” to her, but she began creating her pieces as a way to “interact more deeply” with the desert environment that surrounded her. Her story and experience truly speak to the natural inclination of the artistic mind and to how art is more than what it seems, often commenting on the current social and political climate of our culture.
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is excited to host photographer Mark Klett for their Artist Talk on Thursday, October 26th from 7pm to 8:30pm. Klett will discuss how working in the specific desert landscape of the Southwest has influenced his practice. The event is free, and seating is first come, first serve. The event will take place at the museum (7374 E 2nd St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251).
In teasing the event, SMoCA shares,
Mark Klett is a photographer interested in the intersection of places, history and time. His background includes working as a geologist before turning to photography. Klett has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Japan/US Friendship Commission. Klett’s work has been exhibited and published in the United States and internationally for over thirty-five years, and his work is held in over eighty museum collections worldwide. He is the author/co-author of sixteen books. Klett is Regents’ Professor of Art and Distinguished Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University.
Royse Contemporary is so excited to present the joint exhibition of Arizona artists Alexandra Bowers and Cherie Buck-Hutchison, opening on Thursday, October 5. The exhibit will showcase Bowers’ intricate wood burnings of Sonoran desert flora and fauna and Buck-Hutchison’s digitally composited photography reflecting upon the southwest landscape.
The opening reception will be from 5pm to 10pm on October 5, but the exhibit will be on display until October 15. It is at the Royse Contemporary Gallery, which you can find at 7077 E. Main Street, Suite 6, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.
The opening will be a part of the Scottsdale ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale. Nicole Royse, the owner and curator, will give a brief talk about the artists and work featured in the exhibition; guests will also have the chance to meet the artists and enjoy refreshments. For more information about the exhibition, check out the official press release or visit Royse Contemporary’s website.
Solstice light silvers and goes gray. The air is heavy with the scent of a desert river. My friend and I carry some of her partner’s ashes down a rocky slope to the Verde River in Central Arizona – more accurately, we brace and skitter our way to what we hope is the shoreline. We want to give part of him back to the river he loved so much.
A soft rain begins to fall. What might have been shoreline is muck. There is no way to get to the water. “No good,” she says. “Let’s go back up to the bridge in Camp Verde.” We start up the sandstone we’ve just descended. It’s now nearly dark. I’d thought this would be an easy crossing to the river and hadn’t brought my hiking poles. My friend grabs my arm. I step up on a shallow ledge and feel my foot sliding in mud. My friend holds my arm tight, but it’s no help. There is nowhere to regain balance. I crash down on my left knee. I manage to turn on my back. The pain is a nauseating jolt. The world has become a movie.
Two hours later, a kindly Emergency doc with worried eyes says, “I’d hoped it was just a bad bruise. I’m sorry. It’s broken in three places. We’ll have to keep you here and you’ll need surgery.”
“But it doesn’t hurt unless I move it,” I say. “I don’t want surgery.” I don’t tell him that I’m terrified of general anesthesia. I’d had it twice when I was a kid and the memory of the cold, dark, pain-filled galaxy I’d found myself in has never left me.
“You don’t really have a choice,” he says. “If you want to walk again…”
I write here two weeks later. There are metal staples closing the eight inch incision in my leg, and two metal pins and a cable in my knee. I’ll be on a walker for at least four more weeks. No driving. I live alone. There is no room for error. If I drop something, I have to use a mechanical reaching tool. If I hobble from one room to another and forget something, I suspect the neighbors can hear me cursing out Fate and Whatever Dolt Runs the Universe. And – I have learned what it means to be a real friend in a real community.
I grew up in a little farming town on the shores of Lake Ontario. We had a party-line phone with a live operator. Almost all neighbor/human contact was face to face. I escaped a sometimes terrifying home by exploring the hills and creeks around the town – and hiding out in the tiny local library.
Forty years later, I moved to another little town – in Northern Arizona to write and fight for the earth. My best friend lived across the street. I hung out with hard-core enviros – think Earth First!, river runners, climbers, social activists, artists, writers and scruffy freaks. We all took care of each other through break-ups, deaths, injuries and arrests. There were 11,000 students at the local university. There was no internet. There were no smart phones. There were only land-lines and the Freak Telegraph. And there was my journal and me being faithful to the words I serve.
Then the Southwest became the place to be: to find yourself, to be wannabes, to open charming little coffee shop after charming little coffee shop, to invest, invest, invest and cover the desert and forest with acres of red-roofed houses and trophy mansions. Flagstaff’s population has grown by 189%. There are 25,000 students at the university. Every six minutes a trendy hipster restaurant opens. My friends and I avoid what was once a genuine Southwestern downtown with old-time diners (not cute replicas), bars with boards across their windows, trading posts and local bookstores. Even though the coffee at Macy’s Café is still killer, it’s just not worth the drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic or the fight to the death for a parking place. More and more, most of us connect by text, email and social media.
As soon as word got out about the fall and the surgery, friends showed up at the hospital. Roxane took my mud/blood- filthy clothes and washed them. Larry brought a stuffed animal raccoon to keep watch. Christina sat with me and told me what I could expect in the weeks of recovery to come. She’d had knee surgeries and her empathy and practical advice carried me through more than a few rough hours. She drove me home in a white-out snowstorm and stayed the night to guide me with the basics of the walker and the dangers of moving spontaneously.
My local neighbors, Jim and Dawn, showed up the next day and continued to show up every day. They emptied cat litter, fed the four cats, lay down plywood in front of my desk so I could easily roll my desk chair. When intestinal flu struck on my third day home, they got me through all that involved. Roxane helped me wash my hair. Diane and Bob drove a Trader Joe’s run and filled my cupboards and freezer. Margaret called from Reno and offered to come down to help. Vickie and Kit brought a case of cat food; Kelly, Rajean, my radio producer Gillian, William, Karla and Ann all called and said the magic words: “What do you need?” They didn’t put me in their prayers. They didn’t send some vague amorphous healing energy. They asked, “What do you need?” and they showed up – In three-dimensional, all five senses physical reality.
A few days ago I found myself feeling happier and safer than I have in a long time. I was hauling myself up from my desk chair, telling the walker to stay steady and getting ready to hobble to the kitchen. I sat back down and looked out the living-room window to the snow lying thick on the Ponderosa branches. The late afternoon shadows had gone long and blue. A soft winter sun cast shadows on the trailer next door. For an instant, I imagined that I was back in the wallboard and scrap lumber cabin I had lived in when I first moved to Flagstaff. There would have been only a land-line phone, a few neighbors in the shacks around me and my clan scattered through the little mountain town. I would have felt that I was in the heart of a community – and I understand that the hardest fall I’d ever taken had landed me back in that heart.
I turned to the computer and wrote a message to my friends and neighbors: I write in my journal – not about morning light soft on fresh snow or cat prints threading across the yard or deep spiritual insights gained from it taking five minutes to hobble from my room to the kitchen because of a broken kneecap. I write about impatience; forcing myself to stop thinking I’m being punished for something; living with (to put it delicately) stomach troubles when I can’t move fast enough. I write about using a commode, wearing adult diapers, feeling steadily embarrassed by all of it. I write about how grateful I am that I am not using. And I write about the physicality of physical community, physical love.
A kneecap is physical. Fractures are physical. Stomach flu is physical. These days in my life are not hypothetical or etheric or possibly even transformative. I don’t need thoughts sent to my knee or good wishes sent to my bowels. I need precisely what I’m being given: tender, ungrudging care given by tender, ungrudging friends. I won’t name them because every one of them would say, “I’m just doing what friends can do for each other.” I can tell you that they have helped me give Spokescat Ruti, the Red his twice-daily pills (without which, he would die); they have washed my clothes, stayed overnight with me and listened each time I’m sure a fatal development has occurred. They have made me laugh and are teaching me how to re-enter a community I thought I had lost. But more than anything, they steadfastly remind me that I’m not as alone as I too often tell myself.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Fernando Perez.
FernandoPérez has lived most of his life in the Southwest between Los Angeles, where he was born, and Phoenix where he received and MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. His poems have been published in several journals and his manuscript of poetry was recently selected as a finalist for both the Andrés Móntoya Poetry Prize and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. He is currently living and working in the Pacific Northwest as a full-time writing instructor at Bellevue College and a resident of Seattle, WA.
Phoenix-based photographer Christopher Vialpando’s work is diverse. His website is divided into sections titled “People,” “Places,” and “Things,” which sums up his artistic approach. His work is straightforward, yet his photos seem to reveal the essential truth behind the objects. For example, one photo from “Things” shows a torn cowboy hat obscuring the face of a weathered, two-dimensional wooden figure. The setting is obscure; there is a wire fence in the background and a worn Lone Star flag, as well as various objects that suggest an unconventional yard sale or a junk yard. Though this piece is a barefaced reproduction of the scene, the angle and the indirect lighting prompt the viewer to consider the object with greater care, bringing to mind nostalgia for the old West and hints of the border conflict that often seems to define Southwestern life. In fact, if there is one theme that consistently appears in Vialpando’s work, it is that of the Southwest. His “Places” are mountains, long stretches of road leading into the desert, and Ponderosa pine forests; even the portraits in his “People” segment are lit by the harsh Arizona sun, posing in front of old train cars and vintage automobiles with palm trees in the distance. It’s clear from his work that Vialpando knows where his strengths lie. In his biography on his website, he states “Truth is, I won’t appeal to every client, and not every client will appeal to me. Ergo, this time around is about the truth. I don’t take pictures. I create photographs.” His focus on the truth permeates his work.
Derrick Laux is a student of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences majoring in English Literature. He is Superstition Review’s Administrative Team Manager, head of the Administrative Team. This semester he is a senior.
Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?
Derrick Laux: I manage four interns in areas of administrative duties including advertising, reading series, funding & development, and contests. My job is to create workflows, manage deadlines and be available to answer any questions and assist with the workload in each of these four areas.
SR: How did you hear about or get involved with Superstition Review?
DL: I contacted Trish Murphy, our Editor-in-Chief, with questions about a couple of specific fall and summer courses and told her that I was looking for an opportunity, like an internship, that would help prepare me with some marketable skills and resume building attributes. She said she needed some help managing the workload for Superstition Review and it seemed like a perfect fit at the perfect time. I was afraid that my schedule would not allow me the freedom to partake in an internship that required a lot of physical presence on campus, so when she informed me that the majority of the work was done online, I saw something that could potentially work.
SR: What is your favorite section of SR?
DL: Personally, I like the interviews. I love knowing background information about authors and artists and the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level. Their writing affects and influences so many people that I just think it’s really neat to humanize them for a brief instant and see what makes them tick, what they do in their everyday lives, and what inspires them.
SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal?
DL: Most of the time, I don’t feel qualified enough to answer a question like this or make any kind of literary assessments due to the limited nature of my reading. In comparison to others, I feel like I’m very under-read, but if I could pick anyone right now, it would be a writer from the American Southwest, namely Leslie Marmon Silko. I’ve not read a lot of her work, but I’m absolutely infatuated with Ceremony and the spiritual healing that characterizes that book. It’s beautiful. Anyone that can write something like that, I’d like to see more of their work, especially something exclusive to Superstition Review. I’m falling in love with the Southwest and really feel like it’s neat if we can publish local authors representative of the region that we represent as a literary magazine. Rudolfo Anaya, Barbara Kingsolver, and other contemporary Southwestern writers would be my ideal contributors.
SR: What job, other than your own, would you like to try out in the journal?
DL: I think I’d love to be either the Web Design Editor or the Interview Coordinator. I’m infatuated with logos, graphics, and the overall visual appearance of things. I feel like you only get one chance to make a first impression, and the design of a page usually either clicks the interest switch on or off in a person’s head. Great design is an attention grabber and sets an immediate successful tone while poor design shuts people off in an instant. Their minds are already tainted with bad thoughts if the design isn’t up-to-par. I think being the interview coordinator might be just as fun and rewarding because as I stated before, I love getting to know people on a personal level to see what makes them tick and inspires them to write the things that influence and move our everyday lives.
SR: What are you most excited for in the upcoming issue?
DL: The new design of the webpage and the reading series. I feel like there’s so much potential for both to help establish Superstition Review’s name and get the word out about our publication. Never before have I had the access to deal with such established and talented writers. The chance to meet some of them and even host them at one of our readings is a big goal of mine that really excites me.
SR: What are you currently reading?
DL: I’m currently reading whatever is assigned for my classes. Luckily, the books have been interesting. Recently, I just finished Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote and Double Indemnity by James M. Cain. I thought Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a great book, far better than the film.
SR: What are some of your favorite websites to waste time on or distract you from homework?
DL: Nfl.com and as of late, Craigslist. I’m trying to get set-up in my new place and Craigslist is a life-saver. There’s a lot of good stuff on there whether you’re poor or not.
SR: What would be your dream class to take at ASU? What would the title be and what would it cover?
DL: It would be a class called either “NFL Football” or “American Microbrews.” Beer has become such a hobby of mine and I love spending my free time finding out more about new beers and breweries. It’s the new wine tasting in this country because there are so many good microbreweries out there. Football is self-explanatory. If you don’t like football, there’s something wrong with you; I don’t care how nice you are.
SR: What are your feelings on digital medium?
DL: I like the easy access that technology provides, but it really does leave me feeling jaded and detached at times. I can’t argue with the convenience that new developments like Kindle provide, but most times I see someone using a device like that and think, “Man, I really miss the simplicity of a paperback book.” There’s a lot of quality stuff to be said in blogs out there, but I just don’t like the feeling of sitting behind a screen all day long. It does things to people and its very dehumanizing, especially when I catch myself being mesmerized by the computer.