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Some of the images are unmistakably familiar: Regal saguaro cactus towering over the desert landscape; the dark chasms of the grandest canyon of them all; and the majestic facade of the San Xavier del Bac mission in Tucson.

Yes, this is Arizona at its finest, and the Phoenix Art Museum is hosting a stunning exhibit of 70 photographs that best tell the story of what makes our state so memorable.

Drawn from the photographic collection at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the photographs are the centerpiece of PAM's commemoration of the 100th year of Arizona statehood.

AN INNOVATIVE PAIRING

Spanning the last 100 years, this exhibition brings together works by the center's most beloved photographers, like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Louise Dahl-Wolfe and W. Eugene Smith, as well as some of Arizona's image makers -- David Muench, Dick Arentz and John Schaefer.

In all, the work of 40 photographers are displayed on the walls of the Doris and John Norton Gallery for the Center for Creative Photography at the museum.

The exhibit opened Nov. 12 and is the result of an innovative partnership begun in 2006 that pairs PAM with the center in Tucson to bring the finest in photography to the museum's visitors.

Founded in 1975, the center houses 4 million archival items and 90,000 fine prints by the most gifted masters of the art of photography.

PAM has also made quite a name for itself as one the nation's leading art museums, presenting international exhibitions of the world's greatest art through the centuries and across the globe, including collections from America, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

TRAVEL THROUGH TIME

The photographs in the exhibit travel through time, illuminating the most famous site and symbols in both black and white and color.

One of the earliest photographs is "Jerome, Arizona," by Edward Weston, a gelatin silver print Weston made from an image taken in 1938 during a trip through Arizona funded by a Guggenheim grant, the first ever awarded to a photographer. Taken from a high vantage point, Weston looked down at the little mining town and its winding streets below.

Weston told the story of his trip, with the help of his wife, Charis Wilson, who wrote the text in his book "California & the West."

Dick Arentz, an Arizona photographer who is a master of the difficult process of platinum or palladium printing, has several photographs in the show, including the 1987 "Mission San Xavier del Bac," depicting in delicate tones the Spanish colonial architecture of the iconic mission south of Tucson.

Ansel Adams is also represented with several photographs, including "The Grand Canyon," a 1942 gelatin silver work made on printing-out paper, a contact process where the negative is wedged between a sheet of glass and photographic paper.

Adams was one of the founders of the Center for Creative Photography and was known to be so fond of Arizona he wanted to place his archive here.

A FASHION SITE, TOO

One of the more amusing photos in the show is an untitled work by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, who did a fashion shoot for Harper's Bazaar in 1942 in Arizona.

She chose as a backdrop the Rose Pauson House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939 and constructed in 1940 in the desert in what is now eastern Phoenix.

An unnamed model is pictured in a Claire McCardell plaid and silk sunsuit, holding an umbrella on the patio of the home.

The house burned down in 1943 when a fireplace ember ignited a hand-woven curtain.

Only ruins of foundation and walls remained, which became a local landmark known as "Shiprock," due to their prominent shape atop a hill.

Other fun photos include "Giddy Sky," a smaller print created by Dean Brown on the Navajo Reservation in 1972.

Brown used the dye-transfer process, a complicated technique no longer possible since Eastman Kodak stopped making the materials needed for the process in 1994.

Another unusual photograph in the exhibit is by Chinese-born Canadian photographer Tseng Kwong Chi, who frequently embedded himself into his landscape views to raise question about tourism, identity, stereotypes and cultural differences.

His photograph of Monument Valley in his Expeditionary Series shows the photographer standing rigidly in the desert staring up at one of the monument's most photogenic spires.

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SEND IN YOUR IMAGES

Exhibit organizers are inviting members of the public to contribute their own photographs that answer the question, "What is your iconic Arizona?"

Although Arizona's leading industries include manufacturing (everything from food

to microchips) and mining (especially copper, with nearly two-thirds of the nation's supply coming from Arizona soil), tourism remains perhaps the state's top enterprise, bringing more than 35 million visitors here annually.

Viewing stations in the gallery have been entertaining visitors to the Iconic Arizona exhibit with a variety of photographs amateurs and professionals alike have taken in the state.

For program information and to upload an iconic Arizona photograph of your own, visit: phxart.org/IconicAZ.

Betsey Bruner can be reached at bbruner@azdailysun.com or 556-2255.

IF YOU GO...

WHAT: Iconic Arizona: Celebrating the Arizona Centennial with Photographs

WHEN: On display through March 4, 2012. Museum hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., (corner of North Central and McDowell Road)

ADMISSION: $10/adults; $6/seniors 65 or older; $8/students with college ID; $4/youth ages 6 to 17; free for museum members and children under 6.

INFO: Visit www.phxart.org or call (602) 257-1222

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