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“Walk in My Shoes”
Gallery@TCA, Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

Emily Matyas, "Heading Home" from "I Am My Ancestors," archival pigment print, 29.5" x 23" framed. Courtesy of Tempe Center for the Arts

Continuing through May 12, 2018

A stellar group of Southwest-based artists share the gallery in “Walk in My Shoes” which, as the title suggests, is meant to stir empathy and compassion as it portrays the human condition. There are undertones of activism and feminism, springing from themes of self-identity, immigration, indigenous rights and homelessness. Photographer Emily Matyas dissects cultural identity by recreating the daily life of her Romanian grandmother with portraits of herself in folk dress. The surrogate tends to an oversized haystack, walks through a grove of bare trees, and in a change of setting, adapts to the desert. Will Wilson deals in large-scale tintype portraiture of various acquaintances, including Native Americans, as a way to subvert the controversial Edward S. Curtis prototype. Julio César Morales’ “Undocumented Interventions” series is sparely executed in ink and watercolor. The drawings at first charm the eye with their simplicity, but that all changes as we see that they depict how babies, children and adults are forced to hide in piñatas, washing machines, stereos and the like as they attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Ann Morton’s works often pertain to the Phoenix homeless population. Here, the installation “False Safety Net” is a black mesh bag containing clothing, soft toys and various castoffs. It hangs from the ceiling over “Caution Field,” a yellow-and-black “carpet” of caution tape woven by homeless persons. Annie Lopez creates full-scale dresses by culling family documents, then reproducing them as cyanotypes on tamale paper. Gregory Sale evolves an installation of paper messages from death-row prisoners. Stephen Marc adds his vibrant documentary photography. The show’s many sharp, issue-oriented observations help prove that socially engaged art is alive and well in Arizona.

Tempe Center for the Arts Gallery

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