Inspired by the light

In Tucson you'll find art in the most amazing places

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Unlike Sedona and Scottsdale, Arizona's other nerve centers of art, Tucson has no single geographical cluster of galleries. But there's an amazing variety, from the contemporary art that Davis and Dominguez show to the brilliant Southwestern works of the late Arizona artist Ettore "Ted" DeGrazia. The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun occupies a beautiful adobe; an equally pretty mission stands nearby. Various other galleries major in photography, contemporary glass, Western American art, Hispanic folk art and furniture, and Native American art.

Among the most intriguing is Old Town Artisans (open daily; 201 N. Court Ave.; 520/623-6024). The 1850s adobe compound houses seven galleries and La Cocina Restaurant & Cantina, which is a good stop for lunch.

"Tucson has a very strong contingent of professional contemporary artists," says Dominguez. "We have three strong museums. And the university has produced a lot of today's players through its MFA program. We also have beautiful, clear light, and that's very important to painters, especially."

Lynn Taber, who shows at Mark Sublette, Medicine Man Gallery, is one of those painters. She moved to Tucson from Chicago in 1970, and almost immediately the fierce light and sharp shadows changed her art. She became fascinated with luminosity and iridescence, and over the last three-plus decades, her style has progressed through half a dozen phases, all of them exploring different aspects of light. Her current obsession is the sky. "If I hadn't come to Tucson, none of this would have found its way into my work," she says. "My paintings in Chicago were dark, dark, dark, dark, dark."

"The other thing that happened is harder to describe," Taber adds. "The soul of my work changed. It had something to do with the quiet, the peace, the serenity, listening to the crickets, watching the hawks soar. I read a lot, thought a lot - things like 'who are we?' I turned inward, and that found its way into my paintings."



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