Finding death's beauty - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

Finding death's beauty

Northwest stop on art studio tour offers solace

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Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 12:00 am

Some people say art should be therapeutic.

One  particular stop along the Tucson Pima Arts Council Open Studios Tour promises to inspire healing reflection.

It’s not just the studio’s 10 acres of solitary desert that should do it, or the gentle humor with which artist Aureleo Rosano sculpts — he named his giant spider piece “Don’t be Alarmed, Just Passing Through.”

It’s not even the free margaritas, though complimentary drinks can’t hurt.

The real therapy comes in the form of a sculpture garden honoring the lives of children who have died. With playful, vibrant sculptures tucked into a severe landscape of prickly cacti, the garden symbolically addresses loss.

“The idea was to address the question, ‘How do you carry a grief so heavy?’” said Angela Rose, the artist who created the pieces. “How do you integrate it into your life and keep going?”

The studio tour features 153 spaces where artists work in and around Tucson. It includes converted garages, backyard gardens, desert sanctuaries and spots in downtown Tucson’s arts district. More than a half-dozen of the spots are in the Northwest.

The studio with the children’s memorial garden — at 2550 W. Moore Road — belongs to both Rose and Rosano. During the tour, the weekend of Nov. 8 to 9, Tucson artist Rebecca Bushner will show her paintings there, as well.

Bushner creates manuscript-inspired paintings with words written upside-down, backwards and in Latin so as to not distract viewers with their literal meaning. But some of the first art visitors will see when they pull onto Rose and Rosano’s property is in the children’s garden.

Brightly painted metal rods rise from the desert floor and curl amid cacti, adorned with marbles and sparkly stained glass. They’re a result of the All Souls Procession staged in Tucson two years ago.

Each year, the early-November procession honors the dead. Steeped in Mexican tradition, it features elaborate costumes, ample skeletons and giant puppets towering over crowds.

In 2006, a giant Big Bird puppet floated down the street, covered with mementos of children no longer living.

Rose wanted to use the mementos to create a piece of art that immortalized them, but she couldn’t figure out how.

“They were so diverse, I couldn’t put it into one piece,” she said.

Instead, she created a series of sculptures, each in memory of a specific child.

There’s “The One that Got Away,” a piece with colorful rods that furl at the top — each standing for a sibling of the lost child — and one taller rod unfurled.

There’s “Crazy for You,” a wild sculpture that represents a particularly active child.

And there’s a sculpture that incorporates the colors of a butterfly that Rose said kept popping up when she thought about a certain little one who had died.

After Rose completed the sculptures, she exhibited them at Toscana Gallery. Her exhibit included pieces of flagstone and black chalk so people could write down their thoughts. When rain came, the rocks got washed clean.

Recently, the sculptures found a new home at Rose and Rosano’s studio. During the studio tour, visitors will get a chance to walk amid the sculptures and reflect on their own losses. Then they may go inside and see part of Bushner’s painting series about ghosts. Rose also has paintings inside that, in an abstract way, explore the mystery of the great beyond.

“Where do loved ones go?” she said. “I’m trying to find that out in my paintings, or offer an idea.”

Of course, if all the therapeutic art leaves you in need of a bit of laughter therapy, just step out to the porch and look at Rosano’s odd and whimsical sculptures with amusing titles. The mosaic cube on a globe stand is called “The Earth May Not Be Round.”

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