Hidden from the public’s eye, artists across Flagstaff toil away at their craft, pouring their hearts into their medium of choice. While art collectors tend to see only the finished version of these projects during carefully curated exhibits, there are often many failed experiments, unfixable mistakes and countless other frustrations behind each creation’s final iteration.
The Artists’ Coalition of Flagstaff’s 22nd annual Flagstaff Open Studios takes away some of the mystery of the creative process as artists let the public into their space for one weekend. This free, self-guided tour will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Visit www.flagstaff-arts.org for a full list of participants and map. Brochures are also available at the ACF’s Arts Connection at the Flagstaff Mall, where an exhibit featuring work from the Open Studios artists is on display daily through Aug. 25.
Fitting within ACF’s mission to “encourage and promote artistic growth and professional development of local artists,” many of this year’s participating artists are new to the organization.
Following almost 20 years as a violinist for the Phoenix Symphony, 50 years as a private piano and violin teacher and then a breast cancer diagnosis when she was 59, Chelain Stocker decided to take a break from music and turn to another art form. She and her husband moved into their new summer home in Flagstaff Ranch this year, and Stocker quickly connected with ACF executive director Mike Frankel, who said he enjoyed her abstract paint pouring and invited her into the coalition.
Stocker said she is drawn to the colors, mixing a vibrant acrylic palette with various additives to make it more viscous and add different effects. Each of her creations is wholly unique.
“They get poured and they get shaped, and however it happens it happens,” she said.
Frankel said although he hasn’t seen a large interest in abstract work in the past, Stocker’s has been getting a lot of attention since she began selling it in town. She believes the abstract nature of her paintings allows them to appeal to a wider audience.
“I’ve always got my hand in making something, sewing, knitting, but for some reason this acrylic art pouring and shaping has really intrigued me, and it’s keeping me busy,” Stocker said. “We’ve been done with the cancer stuff for a couple years so it’s kind of nice to enjoy my life now.”
Similarly, Angela Yamauchi has only recently started sharing and exploring her fine art photography in earnest. She comes from a science and engineering background, and first moved to Flagstaff 15 years ago for a job at Gore as a project specialist before working at Northern Arizona University managing the university’s patent portfolio.
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Although she’s focusing on her art and family full time now, Yamauchi’s STEM background plays a role in her subjects, with nature prominently featured. She aims to convey the emotions she felt in each location she photographs, comparing it to listening to a piece of music that connects deeply with an individual.
“[It’s] not just capturing a moment in time when something is really beautiful looking,” she said. “It’s like an outlet for emotional healing, and that’s what started me.”
Among her landscape shots are several that showcase Flagstaff’s legacy as the world’s first International Dark Sky Place, exploring the wonder of the universe and the journeys we take, whether to a quiet campsite in the middle of the woods or humanity’s overarching journey beyond the confines of the atmosphere.
“I can take a picture of the Milky Way from my front yard,” Yamauchi said. “There are other photographers around town who have been doing [star photography] a long time, but it’s a really friendly artist community and I was able to get some tips and get started.”
The two artists also enjoy turning their art into functional items. Stocker repurposes some of the paint that flows from her canvas onto a plastic sheet placed below, peeling dried shapes off and turning them into magnets and jewelry. She has also poured paint onto wooden lazy susans, creating a colorful addition to buyers’ kitchens.
“I’m very retired and I’ve just been having a blast experimenting with it,” Stocker said with a laugh. “I guess it’s kind of like a mad scientist. I’m always trying to figure out, how can I make something different?”
Yamauchi reproduces her photographs on ceramic tiles, some of which are set into the lids of small wooden boxes, a popular item among buyers. She will also be selling a variety of prints along with note cards, calendars, posters and trivets to visitors of her studio across from Jim Cullen Memorial Park next weekend.
“It’s nice for people to be able to have art that’s just kind of around in everyday belongings, things you use, rather than just some big piece of art that’s hanging on the wall,” Yamauchi said. “Pretty soon it just fades into the background and I think it’s a lot more accessible, too, to have these smaller works.”