text by Robyn Collins photos courtesy of Mesa Arts Center

Above: Exterior photo of the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum. 

Held every September, the Mesa Arts Center (MAC) Season Kickoff Event celebrates the start of The Arts calendar year. Always inspired by the exhibitions opening at MAC’s Contemporary Arts Museum,  the 2019 kickoff is titled Flourish Festival. 

On Friday, September 13, from 6-10 p.m., guests will enjoy an evening of celebration and entertainment with live music, up-close performances, art studio demonstrations, hands-on activities, delicious foods and an opportunity to view these five newly installed art exhibitions;

Above: Michelle Stitzlein, Protea Longifolia, 2014. Recycled materials and found objects, 8 x 11 x 2 feet.

Botanicals and Animals in Contemporary Art
The term “flora and fauna” refers to the Western art history classification for plant and animal life, with the exclusion of the human species. From bacteria to large land and sea mammals, this exhibition celebrates nature and its enduring influence in art. While many contemporary artists are instinctively drawn to various environments and the creatures that inhabit them, others are inspired by the climate change discourse and global movement to raise awareness about the human impact on the planet. 

On view in the Dobson Main Gallery through January 26, 2020, this impressive exhibition is represented by 24 artists. Included are Jean Pierre Arboleda, Alexandra Bowers, Tiffany Bozic, Kate Breakey, Nikole Cooney, Jimmy Fike, Frank Gonzales, Amy Gross, Naoto Hattori, Yellena James, Ellen Jewett, Zoe Keller, Kane Kokaris, Mayme Kratz, Brin Levinson, Peggy Macnamara, Brian Mashburn, Meadow and Fawn, Josie Morway, Christina Mrozik, Adam Oehlers, Carol Shinn, Michelle Stitzlein and Elin Thomas.

Above: Mary Meyer, Biophilia (seeds), 2019. Black clay, pigment, graphite, sewing needles, wood panel, dimensions vary. Photo by Chris Loomis.

Biophilia by Mary Meyer
Meyer is an Arizona artist who specializes in mixed media sculpture and installations. Strongly influenced by a background in traditional stone carving, she uses meditative processes and materials to illustrate our physical kinship with the flora that surrounds us. In Biophilia, the artist emphasizes the innate human need to find stillness in our daily lives and reconnect with the quiet energy that is our true nature. The installation carries hundreds of hand-built clay seed and leaf abstractions that beckon the viewer to pause, be present and recognize themselves within these humble constructs of nature. On view through January 26 in the Project Room, Meyer is a 2018 proposal winner.

Above: Roberto Benavidez, Illuminated Piñata No. 1, 2017, Mixed media, 39 x 13 x 12 inches.

Medieval Piñata by Roberto Benavidez
California sculptor Roberto Benavidez is known for his elaborate, fine art piñatas that play on themes of race, sexuality, art, sin, humor and beauty. Inspired by art history, Benavidez’s latest work brings to life the fanciful creatures found in Hieronymus Bosch’s iconic painting Garden of Earthly Delights and the whimsical marginalia found in various illuminated medieval manuscripts. The exhibition features several of the artist’s enchanted sculptures, made from papier-mâché, crepe paper and wire. Benavidez’s work will remain on view through January 12 in the SRP Gallery.

Above: Carol Eckert, Valley of the Quest, 2015, Cotton, linen, wire, 43 x 62 x 3.5 inches.

The Memory of Birds by Carol Eckert
Arizona artist Carol Eckert mines the iconography of mythology and art history, expanding and evolving a body of work that focuses on the resonant connections between humankind and the natural world. Ancient fables and allegories find their way into her art, along with references to cabinets of curiosity and 17th century still life paintings. Employing the simple textile process of coiling, the artist constructs works layered with the complexities of mankind’s response to nature. On view in the North Gallery through January 5, Eckert is a 2018 North Gallery proposal winner.

Above: Joel Sartore, A federally endangered Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) named Lucy, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

Photo Ark by Joel Sartore
The National Geographic Photo Ark is an ambitious project committed to documenting every species living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations. In addition to creating an archival record for generations to come, Photo Ark is a hopeful platform for conservation and shines a light on individuals and organizations working to preserves species around the world. Featuring the work of National Geographic photographer and Photo Ark founder Joel Sartore, the exhibition will include twelve images from the Photo Ark as well as a few examples of his other work for National Geographic magazine, which feature the animals in the wild. The Photo Ark exhibition, organized and traveled by the National Geographic Society, will be on view through November 24 in the South Gallery.

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