The Rising Arts Writers Program is an initiative created by The Arts Beacon to encourage, mentor, support and post writings by aspiring locals writers. With the intention of fostering critical responses to art and artists in the Valley, the RAW Program creates an opportunity for up and coming writers to comment on their own art scene using the platform of The Arts Beacon website while also being a valuable resource for local artists seeking insights into their practice.
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Location³ by Arizona native James Colton Brock is currently showing in the gallery space at The Hive, located in the Coronado neighborhood of Phoenix. Also a vintage resale boutique, coffee shop and garden, The Hive features works from local artists. An exhibition comprising of 24 works of art, Brock composes urban landscapes from his own private viewpoints. Employing a wide range of mediums from photography to paintings on wood panels, and oil on linen to found objects and metals, Brock examines the concept of landscapes that are personalized to the viewer. As you enter the gallery space, a didactic panel written by Brock states, “The sensory combination of color - sound - taste - smell - and even touch fuse a composition that individually defines what a landscape is to each of us. These core characteristics interpret the landscape to our subconscious which defines how we revisit locations in our memories.”
A series of small photo panoramas titled Various Landscapes are not solely landscapes. Several of the photographs are double exposures that hazily illustrate our memories and thoughts that accompany a real place; e.g. a stretch of highway that fades into a car interior and a landscape where boulders transition into two unidentifiable figures. Capturing the unrecognizable forms of the past, Brock accurately signifies the often-unclear quality of memory recollection. The photographs blurred nature are intensified by the natural lighting in the gallery space through the use of clerestory windows, resulting in the shadows and glares that play off of the double exposures.
Brock individualizes urban landscapes by portraying his immediate surroundings as he personally sees them. A barbed wire and chain-link fence is in the foreground of a city sunset in View From My Backyard where the viewer is invited to join the artist’s private perspective of the city. Brock explores the essence of the older areas in cities, often choosing to portray unusual landscapes that are drawn from his youth skateboarding around Phoenix. He explains that “In these places the roots of the past run deep and the smell of history seeps from every pore...In this place humanity can still be found to be connected in the shade of tall structures and under a shadowy drapery of telephone and electric wires.”
Although Brock’s landscapes are based in reality, his utilization of texture and color, as seen in Saguaro simultaneously points to the mental landscape that forms in association with the object or place. An outline of a Saguaro cactus can clearly be seen, however the cactus is not given the traditional green color, but rather a deep red that drips off the canvas. The texture of the cactus is a reflection of the memory of the rugged landscape and painted not on canvas, but on an old found door. Brock does not expose his memories outright in this exhibition, but rather invites the viewer to use his work to explore their own. Combining these two elements results in an interactive experience that can be attained for each observer.