YabYum Seven: Debashish Samaddar

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All photos courtesy of Debashish Samaddar
Who are you and what do you do?

I’m terribly tempted to launch into a deep philosophical essay, but I’ll keep it matter of fact instead: I am Debashish Samaddar: friend to many, son to two, father to two and husband to one. I go by Dev because people mispronounce my name a lot (all the time).

I was born and grew up in India. Trained to be an engineer and management analyst but now trying to reignite my creative side through art and photography, mostly photography. It might even meet the clinical definition of obsession. I think about photography. I talk about photography. I actually even dream about photography. I take pictures. That’s what I do.

How did you get your start?

There isn’t really a well defined start to my photography. My father used to be a very serious photographer. I say used to be because he made a clean and complete cut away from photography 30 years ago. But I digress. When I was quite young I spent a lot of time with my father around his photography. I went with him on his photo outings, I hung out with him in his dark room. My rite of passage was falling into a tray of fixer when I was six.

Naturally, I started using his cameras here and there and learned the basics from him. I was also enrolled in art school from a very young age, around six, which I pursued with a lot of enthusiasm. (And vocal music too, with slightly less enthusiasm). However, once I finished school and went to college, all of my artistic, right brained creative activities ceased instantly. This is perhaps not the place for those details but college was such an intense and immersive experience that by the time I graduated as an engineer I had forgotten that I had once been very close to art and photography (and music).

Debashish Samaddar 06This is not hyperbole. I did not draw or paint or take a photo for perhaps ten years. I did exciting things during that period no doubt: rocket engines, super computers, but to quote John Keating (Robin Williams) from the movie Dead Poets Society:

“[…] medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Anyway, long story short I moved to Arizona, met my wife, and she inspired me to draw and paint again. And from that I found my way back into photography. It’s been several years now, almost another decade and my pursuit of photography hasn’t slowed down. It has picked up. I find that I really truly like this, more than I have ever liked doing anything. It gives purpose to my day. (PS: that’s why the photo magazine I started is called Purpose).

Debashish Samaddar 02What inspires you?

A lot of things, so many things! Where do I start? It’s everywhere! The first ray of light that comes in through the crack in the curtains in the morning and falls on the dresser. The beads of condensation on a window. The puff of smoke as a truck starts up. The lights of a gas station by the highway at night. Inspiration is pouring from the sky. Inspiration is driving down the road. Inspiration is singing out of the radio, playing in the theaters, jumping out of pages of a book.

I cannot explain this in words. That’s why I have to take pictures to show what I see. I always have a camera with me and I am constantly taking photos. At first when my wife would ask me what are you taking photos of and I would have to show her later. Now everyone in the family is used to my camera. It’s part of my daily attire.

Debashish Samaddar 05What do you like about AZ?

I did not like Arizona at first. I didn’t want to like Arizona. And it goes back to Question No. 2 above. I was looking from the left brain, analytical, utilitarian point of view. I liked Boston, I liked Silicon Valley. But picking up that camera has changed my perspective. Now I see what I missed before: the great open spaces, the contrasts between landscapes as you drive through the state, the smallness of humans compared to the world they inhabit.

Especially that last one. I grew up in a crowded city where this scale of grandeur isn’t apparent. You can’t see too far, there are people, buildings, lights. There is traffic. And that has its charm, I like that too. But here you can look far into the horizon and realize your own insignificance.

I do believe that Phoenix should be abandoned though and Flagstaff made the capital of the state. :)) Or perhaps Phoenix can become a monument to the folly of humans who thought 120ºF is survivable :)))

Debashish Samaddar 01Where can we see you(r) work?

There isn’t a physical venue where my work can be seen. It can be seen on my website and social media. I have also started a photography magazine, although that contains not just my photos but of several other people as well. I also have a couple photo books in the making. But they haven’t been published yet. And I can be found wandering about in urban areas: downtown Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Flagstaff, observing people, camera in hand. And sometimes in less urban areas, off road on hiking trails in Flagstaff, Prescott, Yarnell, Wickenburg, camera in hand.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

From the point of view of photography/art: to make something, at least one single piece of art that outlives me for hundreds of years, it could be a single photo, it could be a photo book. Heck, it could be a poem or a story. From a philosophical point of view… well that’s a question for another time. 🙂

Debashish Samaddar 04What is your mantra?

Funny you should ask. I actually have one, it’s in Sanskrit but translated it means:

Do your best without expectation or attachment. If you succeed, splendid. If you fail, just as well.


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YabYum Seven: Hannah Manuelito

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All photos courtesy of Hannah Manuelito
Who are you and what do you do?

Yá’át’ééh (Hello), my name is Hannah Manuelito, I am Black Streak Wood Clan born for Many Goats Clan. I am a Navajo photographer currently based out of Chandler, AZ. My main focus in photography is fine art portraiture but for the past year I have been doing a lot of fashion photography for the company I work for. I am getting back into my fine art practices this summer with an artist residency I recently was selected for, yay!

How did you get your start?

When I was in high school I would go to a lot of local metal shows and noticed that the photographers would get in for free sometimes and I wanted part of that deal. After photographing a couple of shows I didn’t like missing out on the actual performances so I just stuck to being a little emo fan girl in the crowd.

It wasn’t until I saw a couple of photos from Richard Avedon’s In the American West during my sophomore year in high school I was truly moved by fine art photography. Ever since that moment I saw the guy covered in bees, I knew I wanted to pursue fine art portraiture.

Hannah Manuelito 04What inspires you?

My family, they are my life, my breath, my guidance. As a Navajo I was brought up with strong cultural teachings, which I have put into my work. I was born on the Navajo Reservation but my parents brought my sisters and I to Phoenix when I was six years old. There was a disconnect from my culture but my mom did an amazing job at teaching my sisters and I about our culture. With my artwork I explore those teachings to better understand them and I still have many teachings to explore.

What do you like about AZ?

I like Arizona because my home is here, I’ve been fortunate to travel several places but I always look forward to coming home. Other things I like about Arizona is the art scene, I feel like there’s a lot of artists coming together to make a difference in the scene. I am not sure if it is just me but I feel the art friends I have made in Arizona are pretty badass and I am amazed they talk to me haha. Having just stepped into the art scene here and having a job that lets me connect with incredible artists allows me to actually talk and receive guidance from local artists that I look up to.

Hannah Manuelito 05Where can we see you(r) work?

You can see my work on my website or you can follow my on Instagram and follow my daily shenanigans. I am pretty active on Instagram and I will doing an artist residency this summer so you’ll be able to see if I crash and burn haha.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

There are so many things I would love to do! Some more serious things would be, create a traveling workshop for Indigenous youth that shows them its okay to pursue the arts, another would be to have my own solo show in galleries around the country, I guess another one would be to have a studio of my own where I can provide classes on different areas of photography.

Hannah Manuelito 06What is your mantra?

“She laughs without fear of the future”, I love this Bible verse so much I actually have it tattooed on my arm. This verse perfectly describes every woman in my family; they are strong, powerful and overall badass women. When faced with challenges they rise up and face them straight on without hesitation. Although we have moments where we fall they remind us to smile, they bring back that laughter into our lives even at the darkest times.


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YabYum Seven: Barbara Valles

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All photos courtesy of Barbara Valles
Who are you and what do you do?

Barbara Valles: I am a painter. I was born and raised in Spain. My work has evolved over the years into conceptual and dimensional paintings. Some of the paintings come out to become part of the space, or their surroundings. I use unexpected materials in a way that seems almost improvised, but in fact, I follow a rigorous method that has been best described by Lucinda Barnes as a “single stroke” when talking about the wine thumbprints, for example.

How did you get your start?

In the beginning. I don’t remember starting…my parents, teachers and other people say they only remember me drawing, because that is what I did most of the waking time. Art and Art History were always in my life, and as my mom is also an artist and painting teacher, formal training began super early. I started professional Art School when I was 12 years old, and won numerous national Art competitions at a very early age.

Barbara Valles 04What inspires you?

Everyday moments. Light, materials, paint, a work table, the color white, a blank wall.

What do you like about AZ?

The people! I have lived and worked in different countries and US states and I have felt more at home here than in my own country.

People here seem like they are so busy with their lives but in fact, they are so welcoming, and warm. I get a lesson in acceptance on a regular basis, people here are so accepting of others’ views, lifestyles, and respectful of people’s opinions.

Even the Art community, so often tightly closed, I feel that I have a place here in Arizona.

Barbara Valles 03Where can we see you(r) work?

Recently at Walter Art Gallery. I often show in San Francisco at Don Soker Contemporary. Hopefully there will be other opportunities to show my work locally in the next year.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

As an artist? Recognition.

What is your mantra?

Slow down.


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YabYum Seven: Jessica Speer

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All photos courtesy of Jessica Speer
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jessica Speer of J.Speer Fine Art. My past projects included L.B.Paintings and Halcyon Fine Art. I am a Visionary Artist and Spiritual Abstractionist.

As a Visionary Artist I explore all opportunities within the unlimited universe to create art that is profound and innovative. In this effort to create I take spiritual concepts and explain them through abstraction. My goal is not only to reach the curious mind but also communicate through the windows of the soul to the spirit.

My artwork is heavily influenced from my study of God, language, symbolism, numerology, sacred geometry and the esoteric world. Each piece I create is an unfolding of the extensive research I do on Metaphysics, Astrophysics and Esoteric Mathematics.

How did you get your start?

I started working as a self taught artist in 2005. My creativity for the majority of my working career has been in the field of science. This later took a turn into expressing that creativity through visual arts. Combining my two passions art and science.

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ShinKatsu 新生活 | 4″ x 4″ (9 pieces)
What inspires you?

As a seeker of truth, my inspiration as an artist comes from my study of the creator, creation as a whole, multi-universes, dreams, and the spirit realm. I am constantly being inspired by life in all it’s beauty and sorrow.

What do you like about AZ?

I am a native to Arizona by three generations and take pride in that rarity. The gorgeous landscape is an open wonder to all those who live here and visit. It is truly a place to fall in love with, as the sites are breathtaking and unique.

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Origins of Metatron | 30″ x 40″
Where can we see you(r) work?

I do many art exhibitions around the valley and state. As of recently I have become an international artist and will be exhibiting in France in the summer followed by my solo exhibition in Peru at The Museum of Contemporary Art in November. I will also be conducting a lecture and speech at the University of Cusco in Peru regarding my work as an artist. I have plans to show my work in Italy and Japan in 2019.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I have many things I want to accomplish before I move on in this life. The main thing is to fulfill my purpose as an artist. This includes translating truth through art. I plan to travel the world exhibiting in various countries which will only further my esoteric studies and research of the universe. I will complete my invention of the first electromagnetic painting which is only in its first stages. These are just a few things I plan to accomplish before my time is up.

What is your mantra?

My manta is simple….. “Knowledge is power to all those who seek it.”


For more Jessica Speer, visit her website.

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Shino Hajimari 死の始まり | 48″ x 48″

YabYum Seven: Benjamin “Benjam” Goens

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All photos courtesy of Benjam
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Benjamin Goens aka “Benjam”, and I produce hand-cut stencil artworks with spray paints. I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Art History. My initial plan was to teach art history or pursue a career in an art museum or gallery setting and soon after graduation I ended up in a director position at a Scottsdale Gallery.

The gallery experience afforded me the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the art business/world, as well as learning priceless techniques from world-class artists, which quickly led to the realization that I had an insatiable desire to create.

I dabbled with various mediums and ultimately began experimenting with stencils. I cut my first stencil back in 2008-2009, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I really started investing the time into developing my craft, hand-cutting single layer stencils. During the last three years I dedicated myself to learning to cut intricate stencils to create detailed depictions of my subjects and began production of my own multilayered artwork.

I use anywhere from 4 to 20 layers in one image to create photorealistic tonal gradations in my imagery. Over the past couple years I’ve spent countless hours creating several commissioned works and portraits for private collections.

How did you get your start?

I simply told myself that I needed to paint enough pieces to participate in a show and when I had a body of work I took the next step and decided to submit to a call for art to be part of a RAW Artists group show in November 2014. After the success of that first show, I was approached by a curator to be part of another group show shortly after. I made a personal goal to have my first solo exhibition within a year and accomplished that with the opening of my solo show “Cutting Edge” at the Funk Lab in November 2015.

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“The Journey” – mixed media and spray paint on framed canvas – 2017
What inspires you?

I’m inspired my my life experiences and variety of sources I encounter on a daily basis. My work always starts with a photograph that I gravitate towards. During my university studies I fell in love with the art of classical antiquity and European masters, so that is the foundation of my inspiration, but I’ve always held an obsession for the raw grit of hip-hop culture, graffiti, and street art.

The contrast of old-meets-new has always interested me, so I draw inspiration from past designs, ideas, and innovations. I often find beauty that exists in images of the past and attempt to reinvent them by bringing them into a new light on my canvas.

My inspiration truly stems from my family. My wife and my two young daughters are eternal reminders of why I choose to relentlessly chase my dreams.

What do you like about AZ?

I was born and raised in Arizona. I’ve grown to love what this home has to offer. The art community is constantly pushing development and evolving, which I’m thrilled to be a part of. I feel like there is an abundance of creativity and a wide array of sources to collaborate and draw inspiration from with in the Valley of the Sun and I’m looking forward to seeing it shine.

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“Pointe of View” – mixed media and spray paint on canvas
Where can we see you(r) work?

I’m currently showing several new works in “Benjam: What The Cut”, as the first featured guest artist with the collective at {9} The Gallery.

I will be part of an upcoming group show as one of the TLC Community Foundation Artist Grant recipients, opening First Friday, March 2nd at Sisao Gallery during Art Detour.

I have two paintings currently on display at the Muswellbrook Regional Art Center in Australia, as part of the of the 2017 Stencil Art Prize touring exhibition.

You can also view my painting “Play Ball”, acquired for the permanent collection at the Mesa Historical Museum, as part of the AZ Spring Training Experience exhibit.

You can follow my artistic journey on social media on Facebook / Instagram: @benjamzart.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I want to contribute to the betterment of society and, if I’m privileged enough to do that through my art, then I can’t ask for anything else other than leaving a legacy behind for my family to be proud of.

What is your mantra?

Give back more than I take.


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“The Walk” – spray paint on wood panel – 2017
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Sprayed stencil set for “The Walk”
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“Harmony of the Hearts” – mixed media and spray paint on canvas – 2017
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“Quatre Impromptus” – mixed media and spray paint on canvas – 2018

YabYum Seven: Scarlett Decker

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All photos courtesy of Scarlett Decker

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Scarlett Decker (Scarlett Ministero-Decker on Facebook) and I do mixed-media constructions and installation.

How did you get your start?

In Kindergarten, we had clay and I made a basket and snakes and I didn’t want to stop. In second grade, I contact-papered the entire living room as a surprise for my mom (she was surprised!) and I continued throughout school with an uncontrollable urge to make things. Later, it became more acceptable.

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“The Game” | marble chess board, bullets, lipstick

What inspires you?

Artists inspire me. Nature inspires me. Words inspire me. Politics inspire me (not in a good way). Satire inspires me.

What do you like about AZ?

I like absolutely everything about Arizona. When I go elsewhere all I do is complain about the weather. I love the heat! I love the geography. If we had more water here I wouldn’t have to go to California and see the ocean but otherwise Arizona is perfect!

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“Checking” | installation

Where can we see you(r) work?

My website. And currently I’m really doing more in Instagram. I have some small works in Chicago now but more planned for the Phoenix area this year.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I have about 100 things on my bucket list and 10,000 art ideas that I have yet to create. I don’t have time to die! Mostly, I would like the respect of my peers and to continue to make art, those are my goals of success.

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“Domestic Violins” | broken violins, aprons

What is your mantra?

“Push”. I write the word “Push” every day and I try and PUSH myself outside my comfort zone, both in art and in life every day. It always is so worth it.


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“One-Sock Danny” | mateless socks, various clothes and shoes
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“Uncle Albert” | zippers, plaster cast leg, shoe
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“Sighs and Whispers in the Night” | plaster ear, fabric

YabYum Seven: Kaori Takamura

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“Between Shapes 0517″, Acrylic on Wood Panel, Silkscreen, Stitching, Lasercut, 40″ H x 48” W
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kaori Takamura. I am a visual artist. I am originally from Tokyo, Japan and now I live and work in Carefree, AZ.

I was a graphic designer for many years specializing in branding and packaging design. During my practice, I created many graphic symbols for brands or corporations and this experience heavily influenced what I am doing now.

My work is focused on graphical media painting combined with a hint of hand crafting. I paint on canvas or cut out pieces of wood either by hand or by laser then I stitch them together. I sketch on the computer working on technical drawings prior to painting and I believe that this process is a bit different from how most traditional painters work.

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Garakuta boxes, mixed media
How did you get your start?

I took a painting class at community college about 15 years ago just to learn the basics of painting since my education was mainly based on the graphic arts.

After I painted my first piece in this traditional oil painting class, I took it home and was suddenly compelled to apply stitching on the painted canvas with my sewing machine and brought it back to class. I felt that stitching could also be a part of my expression just like brush strokes.

Everyone was shocked about what I did but my instructor back then suggested that I take art seriously as my career. So I did and I have never looked back.

What inspires you?

I get inspired by artisans as a metaphor and I am interested in how artisans are influencing our culture by sending messages as a symbols in our everyday lifestyle.

Also, in my artwork I find influences from some of the Japanese graphic designers such as Ikko Tanaka who created Japanese modernism principles in the 80s. I am still a fan of their minimalistic yet bold approach.

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“Between Shapes0717″, Acrylic on Wood Panel, Laser cut, Silkscreen, Stitching, 45″ H x 43” W
What do you like about AZ?

I like the winter in Arizona. In terms of the art scene, I like the size of Arizona art community.

Where can we see you(r) work?

I am currently showing some of my paintings at Phoenix International Airport Terminal 4 until October 8th 2017. It is a curated group exhibition called Drawn to Pattern.

Locally in Arizona, I am represented by Gebert Contemporary. I am going to have my solo exhibition in February 2018.

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“Dots0715”, Acrylic on Canvas, Silk Screen, Machine and hand stitching
What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I always feel a slight gap between what I’d like to express through my art ( I guess you would call it “vision”) and what I am actually creating. I think this is because I am still in the process of searching it out and I’m trying to figure out how to achieve it. I believe that this is a dilemma that all artist’s have to go through.

Before I die, it will be wonderful if I can create things that match exactly what I visualize in my mind to my full satisfaction.

What is your mantra?

In terms of my art, my mantra is,

“Stitch-by-stitch I will express the tangled thoughts of our everyday lives.”


For more Kaori Takamura, visit her website.

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“Between Shapes0717 (Detail)”
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Untitled, Installation at DC Ranch, Scottsdale AZ

YabYum Seven: Steve Weiss

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All photos courtesy of Steve Weiss

Who are you and what do you do?

Steve Weiss: I’m an Arizona native, first generation American, and pride myself on having all of my hair and most of my original teeth. I sound like I’m from the East Coast until you ask me to say the word “fire”, at which point a drawl ensues.

I run No Festival Required Independent Cinema as an independent film programmer. I’m also an exhibiting film photographer and a filmmaker.

How did you get your start?

Each has its own beginning.

Independent Film Programming

In 2002 I began programming and screening short films and later, documentary and feature films, under the company No Festival Required, first at Modified Arts and later for Phoenix Art Museum, Mesa Arts Center, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Arizona Opera. I worked six months to develop the programming model for FilmBar, then booked it for the first six months of its operation.

It’s my honor and pleasure showing a great film by an outstanding filmmaker to an appreciative audience. It gives me multiple layers of satisfaction that’s much harder to find than simply doing my own thing.

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Model Train AZ State Fair


I began photographing artistically and commercially while in high school, went on to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography at ASU and in the process got to study photography and filmmaking one year at San Francisco Art Institute, most notably with cult fame filmmaker George Kuchar.

I shot the first New Times “Best of Phoenix” cover, did a year-long documentary series on Maricopa Medical Center’s Burn Unit and had my work published in a French photo annual. Through local art consultants Armstrong Prior, I’ve had commissions for several corporate and professional collections.

Lots of exhibits over 45 years of doing photography, though I tend to be about 3-6 years behind on shooting and then exhibiting. Sometimes it’s even longer. I’m more interested in showing something different less frequently than exhibiting every year.


Twenty years after college courses and graduation, I got back into filmmaking and have continued making short films and video installations, many in collaboration with artist and comedian Leslie Barton.

We worked together with interior designer Janis Leonard in 2013 to create a 3-film, six screen installation titled Keyhole that screens in the “He/She” room at Scottsdale’s AZ/88. Janis first commissioned me in 2011 to do a looping video installation for the original SMoCA Lounge at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

What inspires you?

I compulsively seek visual order and emotional content from inanimate objects and in natural and urban environments. Mostly these days I’m more interested in moving pictures than just one image, but I still have a lot to print.

What do you like about AZ?

Flat horizon lines so you can see what’s coming. Being able to drive 45 minutes and be away from most everything. AZ also tends to nurture the entrepreneurial, so I have been able to do many different artistic things that would have been harder in a more saturated market.

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Golden Figure Mirage Hotel LV

Where can we see you(r) work?

For film, the Keyhole installation runs all the time at AZ/88, but goes “R” rated after 9:30 pm!

For photography, I have a small online presence at this website.

And my film YouTube channel.

Next up No Festival Required Independent Cinema will presents
a Salon Screening (maximum 50 seats) of TONY CONRAD: COMPLETELY IN THE PRESENT, a documentary film by Tyler Hubby on Thursday, May 18 2017 doors 7:30pm, show at 8pm at the Trunkspace.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I’d really like to see the state of Montana based on John Steinbeck’s description of it in Travels With Charley. I have a documentary project and a few film projects I’d really dig bringing to fruition, and then all that printing.

What is your mantra?

“Sleep Is Good”, no wait, that’s my epitaph. I really like “Measure Twice, Cut Once” but I also like, “Fuck it, let’s just do it.”


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Render Unto Caesar Caesars Palace LV
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Ticket Booth AZ State Fair


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Smiling Winner LV
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Poled Hereford

YabYum Seven: Mignon Gould

mignon gould 01Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Mignon Gould and I am the founder and Agent-in-Chief of TheChicSpy.com, an online style and entertainment publication featuring the works of creatives in fashion, film, and pop culture.

How did you get your start?

Several years ago I worked for The Arizona Republic. I wrote for their weekly style publication called “Yes”, as well as a few of their other magazines. After leaving the newspaper, I went to graduate school in San Francisco, received an MFA in Fashion Journalism with an emphasis in Multimedia Studies. I used my publication as my thesis and decided to launch it into a business.

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All photos courtesy of Mignon Gould

What inspires you?

I’m so inspired by my family in all that I do. Creatively my mother was inspirational. She is a clarinetist and performed for the Phoenix Symphony. She also enjoyed pottery. She created this amazing chess set when she was 16 and it’s mine now. It’s beautiful and the details on the pieces are amazing.

As a publisher, writer and entrepreneur, I’m also inspired by my 3rd great uncle John James Neimore, who in 1879 founded The California Eagle, one of the first African-American newspapers in California. He was in his teens. I can’t imagine how super focused he had to be to do something so groundbreaking at that age, and in that era.

What do you like about AZ?

I love the arts community and how unpretentious and enriching it is here. After all, we have one of the leading fashion collections in this country at Phoenix Art Museum, and we have one of the most attended art events in the nation with Artlink’s First Friday Art Walk. In the Valley, art is accessible for everyone.

mignon gould 03Where can we see you(r) work?

You can view my work at thechicspy.com and mignongould.com. You can read my featured commentary on fashion and pop culture topics here.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I would like to have helped others achieve their professional goals. I’m currently preparing to launch Chic Spy Studio, a virtual internship program for college students and recent graduates in journalism, fashion, media, marketing, and design. I piloted the program in 2013 with students from around the country including Arizona State University in Tempe, Syracuse University in New York, and Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I originally launched my website to create a portfolio of my written work. I was able to get a job at a newspaper with that portfolio. Now, I want to create a platform that helps others land their dream job.

What is your mantra?

Carpe Diem. I wrote a poem in the 90s, and keep it with me always. It keeps me marching on, knowing no mission is impossible:

Have you ever wanted to create a new version of you
Someone who’d always know what to do
A feeling of strength and power divine
No limits or boundaries to draw the line
Carpe Diem is to seize the day
Become who you want
Make your own way
It’s now or never, I’ve heard some say
Now is the time, to seize the day


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YabYum Seven: Brooke Grucella

Brooke Grucella 03Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Brooke Grucella, I am an artist, curator, and Professor of Practice for the School of Art, University of Arizona. I primarily work in 2D and installation these days, however, occasionally I dabble in video and sculpture.

How did you get your start?

How did I get my start….as far as exhibiting…hmmmmm. Well once I graduated from the MFA program I began to search for galleries around the country that exhibited the same type of work I was doing. I got my start as a sort of New Brow, graffiti- influenced artist.

I started showing at a space called Wind-up in Mesa along with a wide arrange of Low Brow, New Brow, Graffiti, and Pop Surreal artists. I expanded out to Cella Gallery with my first solo show, shortly thereafter. Both spaces have since closed, but they gave me my first taste of working in commercial galleries.

Brooke Grucella 02What inspires you?

I am inspired by a lot of things, most of all pop culture and youth driven culture. There is a dash of nostalgia in my work, but it is obscured by the use of skate, surf, toy, comics, and cartoon imagery. Most of my figurative work revolves around my siblings coupled with the stories and communication of our relationships.

Right now I am fixated on abstracting comic book imagery into symbols that represent both the emotional and physical states of dealing with the trauma. Trauma or the disruption of the norm can happen any number of ways.

The next body of work is going to deal with the trauma of cancer. It has effected my family is quite a few ways so I am creating these “portraits” of family members’ cancer using comic book and surf/skate influenced imagery. It would sort of look like microscopic images of the cells, but think of garbage pail kid aesthetics.


My work is an investigation in memory and perception. The process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information as it is filtered through an amalgam of consumer and popular culture intrigues me.

My work focuses on how various forms of collective culture shape issues of sex, gender, politics, depression, fear, anger, love, loss and social strata. My own personal experiences and those of the people who immediately surround me influence the content of the images.

The work considers what develops when romantic, platonic, familial and social influences translate into various forms of recollection. The pieces are not nostalgic, but rather an exercise in distilling down memory into a mutation of commercialism. Figural, textual and decorative aesthetics are essential in the presentation of each piece. Products are signifiers of the events themselves; creating memory becomes a spin-off of the popular culture process.

Brooke Grucella 05What do you like about AZ?

I can remember the first time visiting Arizona before moving here. I thought it was bloody hot, but coming from Simi Valley, California, which is nestled in the Santa Susana Mountains, I thought the spaciousness of Arizona was amazing! The open space, the sunsets, and the monsoons are utter highlights for me. Plus living in Tucson I have the added perk of being in a sort of artsy liberal-ish small (feeling) community.

Where can we see you(r) work?

My work was recently up at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and will soon be in the Small Works Invitational at Davis Dominguez Gallery. I am working on getting my website up and running this summer and Foudai Projects in SF has some of my works in their inventory.

Brooke Grucella 04What would you like to accomplish before you die?

That is a BIG question. Honestly, I would love to be able to focus more on my studio work and travel across the country meeting people, learning new places, finding different inspirations and explore.

What is your mantra?

You can’t make red from orange. Meaning, you can’t go back and change what has already happened. All you can do is live, learn, and grow.


Brooke Grucella 01