Arizona ArtBeat: Dry: A Summer Art Event

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We step into the air-conditioned space at R. Pela Contemporary Art in Phoenix to examine life in the desert. Through the eyes of local and national artists, “Dry: A Summer Art Event” features the unusual aspects of our desert lifestyle.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Artbeat looks at a new exhibit that focuses on the challenges of living in the desert during the summer. Producer Christina Estes and photographer E.J. Hernandez have more.

Robrt Pela: The exhibit is called Dry. And it is about summertime in Phoenix. It's about more than just how hot it is or how uncomfortable we are, or how we sometimes feel trapped here in the summertime, but about all aspects of why we're here, and why and how we deal with summer.

Christina Estes: Curator Robrt Pela asked 11 artists to contribute pieces that reflect their take on our heat. In Desert traveler, Lisa Albinger reveals the bond between Arizona and her former home.

Robrt Pela: The snow globe is a snow globe of Wisconsin, and it actually says Wisconsin on the bottom. She uses a lot of texture in her work. And there's a connection between the figure and its heart, and the snow globe depicting Wisconsin. But then the figure is surrounded by desert imagery.

Christina Estes: Downtown Phoenix is where photographic artist Hector Raul Primero grew up.

Robrt Pela: He's taking old images in downtown Phoenix and combining them with new images that he's shot himself. He combines them in a way that is full of melancholy. If you look at his work, it's joyful because it's so beautiful, and because it's celebrating the fact that downtown Phoenix is essentially being reborn as it's being redeveloped. But there's also a great deal of sadness because many of the buildings he's showing on top of these new images are gone.

Christina Estes: The largest piece in the show belongs to Phoenix college student Ben Peck.

Robrt Pela: He's using acrylic paint as oil, which I'm fascinated by. And he is telling stories about the dichotomy between empty lots and very, very quiet or very dry and dead areas that are in very busy parts of town.

Christina Estes: Surrealist painter Cindy Schnackel can generate smiles from the weariest summer residents.

Robrt Pela: When this piece, which is called "Good China in the Bad Desert," um saguaro cactus are menacing a tea service. And the tea service has everything is figurative, so the plates, the cups, the tea pot, and the saguaro have all been sort of humanized. They have faces, and they're looking alternately ghoulish or confused. It's a beautiful piece.

Christina Estes: Pela never expects everyone to like every piece of art. But he hopes visitors who step inside his air conditioned gallery enjoy moments of cool calmness.

Robrt Pela: That calm that we feel when we're standing before something beautiful, something that maybe we would not have thought of or couldn't do ourselves. And in the summertime, we need that.

Ted Simons: The exhibit runs through July. You can find more information at

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