SMoCA Revisits the Work of Mel Roman

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All images courtesy and copyright of SMoCA and Rossitza Todorova

by Nicole Royse
Arts Editor

In correlation with the impending election and the anniversary of the Marriage Equality Act, Scottsdale Museum of Contempoary Art (SMoCA) revisits the engaging and challenging work of Mel Roman: Coming Out Under Fire. This much anticipated exhibition utilizes a provocative combination of text, found objects and fervent symbolism in 12 installations, sculptures and photos centered on issues facing society that are still relevant today.

Mel Roman was an accomplished artist, Civil Rights activist, and psychologist with an impressive 50 year career and a valley resident until his death in 2002. “Roman’s artwork addressed the human psyche and social inequity, racial discrimination, gay rights, gender equity, the right to die, intentional communities, and paternal custody rights”, states the SMoCA website.

mel roman 04Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Mel Roman’s original exhibition at the SMoCA in 2000 and previously at Bentley Gallery 1998, was incredibly controversial. The exhibition was based off of a book and documentary of the same name, which chronicled gay and lesbian service members during World War II. Through his art, Roman examines important issues of equality, freedom and privacy, aiming to create reactions and commentary in hopes of creating action. SMoCA has included extensive biographical information about Roman as well as photographs from Roman’s original exhibition giving viewer’s further context for this powerful exhibit.

mel roman 01Highlights of Coming Out Under Fire include the stirring, self-titled piece “Coming Out Under Fire”, featuring an American flag placed over a casket with a small monitor playing. It is truly heart wrenching, an engaging and difficult to piece to view. One of the gallery rooms is filled with mirrors with text of derogatory words and phrases including “fag” and “dyke” and “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and lastly “how can one be what one is”. Another excellent work titled “Nature/Nurture” employs powerful text “Desire” that is depicted in neon in front of a map of the human genome, commenting on how “Desire” is apart of everyone.

Coming Out Under Fire will be on display through Sunday, October 2nd. SMoCA museum admission is only $7 for adults, $5 for students, and children under 15 are free. Don’t forget that every Thursday the museum offers complementary admission as well as Friday and Saturday evenings after 5 PM. Located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale at 7374 East Second Street, visit their website for more information about exhibitions and events.

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YabYum Seven: Cheryl Brandon

5dbe72b1-653f-4b1d-923f-a7b9b6678053Who are you and what do you do?

I remember how odd it felt the first time I spoke out loud that I, Cheryl Brandon, was an Artist. I always knew it was so, because my mother had recognized this talent in me at a very young age and sent me to study at the Oklahoma Science and Art Foundation. In fact, it was this institute with its petrified mummies on display under large glass cubicles that inspired me to be a figurative Clay Artist. I work with clay. With a little pressure and control of this very earthy medium, I am able to speak without using words.

How did you get your start?

I went to college and took every available class in clay. Pottery and sculpture were my main focus. It was pretty easy to see I was on to something because I could see other students work and compare my work to theirs as well as to my professors. And so, the light went on and I fell in love with it. I started competing with my college professors in many craft shows and exhibitions at their suggestion. This put me in the art world and proved to me that I belonged; that I could succeed in the field. By far the most impressive push I got early on was from sweet loving family. My brother and sister, along with my mother, went in together and purchased my first kiln. This gesture still brings a tear to my eye. I have truly been blessed with great support.

What inspires you?5f1c3279-a30f-40e3-a2cb-408a8842a263

I think it comes down to nature, anything from the world of nature, including human nature, and the way people interact to both. The most interesting and inspirational aspects of human nature is the way individuals deal with internal and external realities and conditions. Such as personal conflicts with internal dialog (that little voice we often time listen to), and perspectives on sexuality, especially for me, that of being female. So first is people and their spirits. Second is any form of beauty in nature, whether it is the wind, the sky, the colors or the strange beauty of plants and animals. I really like to work with both to create feelings that are familiar, universal, and speak to everyone. This is best noted in my latest work with totems.

What do you like about AZ?

When I first moved to Arizona in 1996, I could not believe my eyes. The plants reminded me of something from a different planet, strange beauty that sometimes bite, but demands respect. And wow! The places you can go: to the mountains, ski slope, or the canyons, such diversity and no matter where you are in Arizona, the sun shines every day, even if it rains. It is really hard to be in a bad mood with all the sunshine. Happiness for me is to feel the sun on my face and know that it will be the same tomorrow.

The people of Arizona are a very mixed bag from all parts, so you don’t have any barriers to break through. What I mean is, people in Arizona are friendly, trusting and accepting of newcomers. This makes it easy to call Arizona home. Plus, Phoenix is a very metropolitan city, and has a healthy Art Community, which is very attractive to me. And let’s not stop there, so many more art communities with great appeal to tourists and artists like Carefree, Sedona, Tucson, Bisbee, Tubac, Jerome, and Prescott. Any artist would be so lucky to live, love, and make (or sell) art in Arizona.

abca067b-f997-403a-b9d0-2fcc00f4c713Where can we see your work?

Presently, I am represented by Carsten’s Fine Art Gallery in Scottsdale. Or you can view my work on my website. In the past, I have shown in many galleries here in the valley, on Marshall Way, and Cave Creek as well as galleries in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Bernalillo, New Mexico. I also show in many group shows here in town such as The Shemer, The Herberger, the Alwun House, West Valley Museum, the Airport Museum, R. Pela Contemporary, Oblique Art, AZ Clay and wherever the “Calls to Artist” may lead me.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I have always wanted to have my own studio/gallery space so I would like to find a piece of property, in an art-savvy community, design and build my gallery. More than just a building, I would like this gallery to be inviting to everyone, not just artists and collectors. I believe that people need art and they want to live with art. But, more than sometimes, the art venues are somewhat intimidating. I would like to use a sense of humor and whimsy to reduce the intimidation, thus, bringing all types of people to the space. I want people to know what I know: that everything in our life is a symbol, a clue, a reminder of what we understand and what we don’t. These are the how’s and why’s of manifestation, the creation of Art. It is so simple, really. In art, look to the beauty for the truth and, to what hurts, for its beauty.

What is your mantra?

Thoughts become things. So be careful what you think. Choose the good ones.

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YabYum Seven: Kevin Caron

kevincaron-headshotWho are you and what do you do?

I am Kevin Caron, a sculptor. I excite and delight people with my fabricated metal and 3D printed sculptures. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone look at one of my sculptures from every angle, soaking it in – or trying to figure it out!

How did you get your start?

I wasn’t one of those people who always wanted to be an artist, so I sort of backed into being an artist. We wanted a privacy screen at our house. People saw it and began asking me to make things for them. Before I knew it, instead of trading for work, people began paying me to have fun.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by trying to make the things I see in my head. Sometimes a technical challenge presents itself (I’ve been told this makes some of my work conceptual). I let my hands become an extension of my mind, as I do when I am riding my motorcycle. I also love sound, movement, shadows and illusion, as well as the sensuality of shapes, the gentle rise and fall of their sides and junctures.

kevincaron-knotme
“Knot Me”

What do you like about AZ?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the desert, exploring washes, interacting with the plants and animals around me. Arizona is in my heart as well as being my home.

Where can we see you(r) work?

In Arizona, my work is at Pearson & Company in Scottsdale, Vision Gallery in Chandler and Van Gogh’s Ear gallery in Prescott. As for where I work, I have a studio, which is a converted auto garage (only fitting, since I was a mechanic for many years), in Phoenix where I do my metal work. My three 3D printers are at home – the studio is too dirty for sensitive (and I mean sensitive!) equipment.

I just wrapped up a solo show of my 3D printed work at the Walter Art Gallery in Scottsdale and a solo show of my metal work and drawings came to a close on April 28 at the Central Arts Plaza in Phoenix. Both were curated by Robrt Pela of R. Pela Contemporary.

You can also see – and hear – my artwork at my Website and watch me work on my YouTube channel, where I have more than 400 videos.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I’d like to create an Escher-worthy piece.

What is your mantra?

“Run through the grassy fields of my mind.”

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“Arabesque”
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“Charged Particle”
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“Fuego”
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“Genome Project”
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“Oculum”
kevincaron-simpleplaneswithaquamarinestripe
“Simple Planes with Aquamarine Stripe”
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“Wherever You Go There You Are”