Once, when a pair of Jehovah’s witnesses banged on my door I greeted them in a full bear costume. I answered all questions with growls, roars and grunts until they left.
I worked for a while at a local new-age record label whose motto was, “peace through music”. I carefully dissected a couple of bumper stickers and Frankenstein like built a new one that read, “peace through mucus”.
I greet every morning with a curmudgeonly skepticism and irreverence that makes it difficult to invite me to parties.
So, when I say in utter sincerity that Tucson is my magic spiritual love vortex you should take note.
Beyond the radiant sunsets, the euphoric smell of wet creosote, the conspiracy of thrift stores and the mysticism of the Sonoran hot dog, Tucson is to me a collection of people: artists, writers, scientists, abuelas, aging punks, drag queens, uptight liberals, transplants and hipster kids, united irritably under the dull hum of the swamp cooler. The smell of Miracle Breeze cooler pads is etched on our psyche. In the still heat of August, waiting for the monsoon, the din of cicadas in our ears, each of us is immobilized. Our brains begin to boil and our imaginations steep like a tea bag into our bones. Somewhere in that compost, a mix of desperation, dreams, poverty and sweat we decide we’ll just have to do it ourselves, but it’ll have to wait until September. That distillate is at the core of our DIY bushwhacking culture, the essence that makes Tucson unique – A culture that is as much a part of me as I am of Tucson.
Over twenty years ago, on an unbearably hot day late in July, sitting in a grimy little cafe on Broadway, I told my friend and fellow artist, Sue Johnson, about my experiences witnessing the Dios De Las Muertos celebrations in Guerro, Mexico. “Dio della what?” I think was her reply. She investigated, one National Geographic article and a week later a plot had been hatched. That was to become the All Souls Procession. Over the years I have watched that tiny insignificant seed grow into one of the most unique expressions of creativity and community anywhere. I don’t think it could of taken root had it not been for the alchemy of our DIY culture.
Like valley fever inspiration seems to ride on the dust and implant itself in our hippocampus. “If you can’t find a path, build one”, could be our motto. In my own life this manifests as artistic intent, the desire to paint, to sculpt. Being too poor to afford fine marble to chip away at I turned to the local dumpsters, there was cardboard, mounds and mounds of it. So I built sculpture out of it. Small at first then larger. The work out grew my studio and the recognition of the work grew beyond the borders of our little city. Eventually I was invited to Italy to compete in an international cardboard art festival called Cartasia. I brought the grand prize back to my desert home. It was not just me who made that possible. Without the love and support of my fellow Tucsonans I wouldn’t have made it. This honor belongs as much to my community as to me.
It was two months I would be gone making my cardboard monument but I still had bills to pay so I threw a fundraiser called, The Cardboard Ball. I invited my city to make fashions and art out of cardboard and join me for a night of dancing and celebration. People came to my aid and I raised the money I needed to make my Italian adventure a reality. Beyond that I was deeply touched and inspired by the outpouring of support from my community. It sustained me and inspired me and as the deadline loomed it kept me going.
The Cardboard Ball was a bellicose art party, an eclectic explosion of self-expression. Attendees made phenomenal costumes and breathtaking art. It was a dance of playful rebellion and childlike joy. And so I decided to keep it going this year. As I run the free community workshops for the All Souls Procession I felt that that was as good a reason as any to have a fundraiser. And so I find myself joining old and new inspirations and I’m excited to see what this seed grows into, planted in the nurturing soil of Tucson. You must support your community if you want your community to support you.
Mykl and I met at Tap & Bottle, fitting as we originally met at a weekly craft get together called Crafternoon organized by Rebecca Safford, one of the co-owners of Tap & Bottle.
Mykl invites you to attend the second annual Cardboard Ball, one of the most unique charity events in Tucson. The Cardboard Ball is a one night only art exhibition, grooving dance party and the premier fundraiser for the All Souls Procession Free Community Workshops. The event features cardboard art on display, created by local artists and craftspeople and ball attendees are encouraged to create cardboard outfits and wearable art.
Tickets* are $7 in advance and $10 at the door. Tickets go on sale at the end of August and will be available at Yikes toys in Decorator Square on Broadway Blvd and Pop Cycle on 4th Ave. All proceeds benefit the All Souls Procession Workshops.
*Tickets are free for participating artists and those who wear a costume or outfit made of cardboard, however because this is a fundraiser, donations from the artists and costumed attendees are deeply appreciated. Remember the proceeds support the Procession Workshops so please buy a ticket, support the Cardboard Ball so we can support you.
You can see the rest of the photos on the Love Letters to Tucson Flickr stream.