Dallin Maybee artwork
This illustration made on antique ledger paper is the work of “Map(ing) 2011” artist Dallin Maybee, a Tempe law student, who will be creating new work as part of the show.

The rough-hewn spirals and stick figures etched into freeway walls are a ho-hum part of the landscape around here, a motif most of us hardly notice anymore.

But they got Mary Hood, an art professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, thinking.

“We’re completely surrounded by Native influences here. They’re everywhere. And once you become aware of it, you can’t help but think ‘What does that really mean?’” she says.

To that end, Hood developed “Map(ing),” a biennial art exhibition. The second incarnation of the project, called “Map(ing) 2011: Working Proof,” is on display now at Night Gallery, the art space at Tempe Marketplace. It includes the work of seven American Indian artists and Hood’s graduate printmaking students.

Over the next week, the artists and students will work in three-man teams to churn out one brand-new print per group. The new prints will become part of the show, and some will be offered for sale to the general public.

Hood tells us more.

Q: The name of the exhibition is a play on the verb “mapping,” the act of pinning down an idea of a place. How is this project inspired by that concept?

A: The sense of place we have here is incredible. There are these visual manifestations of native culture wherever we go — at strip malls and on freeways and at the airport. I mean, I’m sitting in my car right now at Trader Joe’s, and the theme of the strip mall is all Hopi design. This Hopi pattern I’m looking at is a symbol for the Hopi world view, and here it’s just decoration. We just kind of take these patterns without really having an understanding of the meaning or symbolism behind them. In exploring the identity of this place, it makes sense to reference the indigenous people who inhabited it long before we came.

Q: What’s most exciting about the artists participating in this year’s project?

A: Some of them are working in a very contemporary visual language that stems out of tradition and maybe discusses historical or traditional themes and ideas but is very unique to their story. They’re very skilled. They’re very imaginative. They’re very creative people. They’re all very open and willing to work with students. And no one really knows what’s going to come out of it.

Q: Do the teams set out to create works that focus on this idea of place, or is the outcome a total surprise?

A: If we went into the project with a preconceived idea of what we would get at the end, it would be kind of mechanical, so we don’t know, and they don’t know. Artists come with some ideas, maybe some drawings or sketches, but they don’t have a pre-planned idea. They’ll be doing that hands-on in the studios.

Q: Will it be a challenge for the artists, who by and large are not printmakers, to work in this new art form?

A: It’s a huge challenge. The artists have to communicate the meaning and symbolism and the aesthetic qualities they’re interested in achieving, and the students have to advise the artists on the process and recommend a process that will fit with that artist’s sensibility and achieve the desired effect. And they have to trust each other and be open to working together because otherwise it just doesn’t happen; it won’t work.

Q: What will happen to the prints that come out of the week in the studio?

A: By the end of the week, each team will have an edition (of 25 prints) done. Two will be available to buy outright or bid on during an auction at the Night Gallery on Jan. 14. Because there are so few of them, it’s a unique opportunity to own a piece of art, and the money goes back into putting on the next ‘Map(ing)’ project.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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