Guest Post, Carolyn Lavender: Justifying Phoenix

Phoenix, Arizona is not a place that attracts serious artists the way New York City and Los Angeles do.  Some might assume that artists who live there are not as serious as those who re-locate to the important art centers of the world.  I admire the artists that make those moves, but at this point it doesn’t look like that will be me.  Even though I am living and working in Phoenix, I am very serious about what I do.  All the artists I know here are.  One of the best reasons for living in Phoenix is that it costs less to do so, and that means more time in my studio.  A lot of creative people believe that it is okay to live somewhere like Phoenix as long as you travel.  Traveling is interesting, people who travel become interesting, and then they can live in boring place but have interesting things to talk about.

Really, I am not bored when I am at home in Phoenix.  There is more to do and experience than one ever could.  But spending time somewhere else helps makes things vivid. My current house sitting opportunity in Brooklyn, for an artist friend, is allowing me to experience quality time in a major art capitol.

When I go to an old city I am thrilled by period decoration combined with the patina of age.  Like the manhole cover in the basement of the contemporary art space, PS1, in Long Island City.

Manhole cover















Also in PS1, is the always-magical Skyspace by artist James Turrell.  Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art has one, but each Skyspace is an individual experience.  On this day the clouds are smiling at me.

Turrell skyspace PS1 2013

Inside the American Natural History Museum there are endless dioramas.  These dramatic taxidermy scenes, that blend real and fake, can be found in lots of museums.  But in this museum, there are more, and they are grander. This detail shows a leopard with his peacock kill.


Something I always notice, are mound-like forms, which some very old buildings have at their edges.  Usually they are situated on corners, where I assume they are meant to provide protection to the building.   This one I found in an alley in the lower east side of NYC.

corner protector

My last image is a small object that I photographed at The Cloisters, a museum created in the 1930’s by John D. Rockefeller Jr. consisting of re-assembled parts of 5 different cloistered European abbeys.  This object is one of approximately 5,000 medieval works of art that is contained within The Cloisters.  I have been to this museum before, but on this visit I especially love this object.  It is strange and wonderful, but there wasn’t much information with it.  It reminds me a little of The Garden of Earthly Delights, the painting in Madrid, that I have been lucky enough to see in person as well.

ivory object

So I will soon return to Phoenix to continue teaching and making art.  And the next time someone asks me, I will be able to say that I recently traveled somewhere important.  Which might just justify that I am a serious artist living in Phoenix, Arizona.

Carolyn Lavender

Carolyn Lavender was raised in Kent, Washington, but lives/works in Phoenix Arizona.She obtained her MFA in Drawing in 1992, from Arizona State University, and has been actively making work and showing since that time.Carolyn and her husband live on a densely planted urban lot that attracts a lot of bird life, insects, lizards, geckos, and feral cats.She is connected to nature, but lives within the framework of city life.

Some resume highlights are the 2013 Mesa Contemporary Art Museum show, “Creature.Man.Nature” -3-Person show, 2004 Arizona State University Art Museum show “Democracy in America”, the 1995 and 2007 Tucson Museum of Art Biennials, and the “Group Show of Strangeness”, Durex Arte Contemporanea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Public collections include: ASU Art Museum Print collection, Mesa Contemporary Arts, Tucson Museum of Art, City of Glendale, City of Mesa, City of Phoenix Municipal Print Collection, College of New Jersey and Shemer Art Center.Lavender completed residencies at Skidmore College, NY and Studios Midwest, in Galesburg, IL, and in 2001 Lavender helped found, and was a member, of the Phoenix artist-run space, Eye Lounge.

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One thought on “Guest Post, Carolyn Lavender: Justifying Phoenix

  • August 10, 2013 at 3:11 am

    I am a seriously working artist living in Phoenix too. I love it for the light, the space, the ease. And like you, I find travel very important. I spend (and continure to work) for 2 1/2 months in France every year and a couple months in Montana. But it is always nice to come home to Phoenix and bring back all that inspiration.


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