Animal Crackers: Local artists put on weighty, whimsical exhibit - East Valley Tribune: Events

Animal Crackers: Local artists put on weighty, whimsical exhibit

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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 5:53 am

Animals take center stage this summer at Tempe Center for the Arts’ “Animal Crackers” exhibit. Featuring works from national and local artists, the Gallery exhibit explores animal-related themes ranging from weighty to whimsical.

Barbara Burton, a Mesa resident and longtime Valley artist, has five pieces on display. They are primarily mixed media and depict either rabbits or birds.

“Rabbits to me are very gestural, they have the big ears and the big feet,” said Burton. “Birds are the opposite, but I’ve always found it interesting to use them in artwork.”

Inspiration for Burton’s work comes from a variety of places including the news, conversations she hears, and life experience. Burton said all of her work can be enjoyed at a basic level of visual enjoyment, but there is also a bigger story behind each one.

Her pieces “Assisted Living I & II” (pictured), inspired by Burton’s experience of aging, are a prime example.

“Everyone tells you it’s coming, you see friends and family go through it, but the first time some part of your own body no longer will heal, it really hits home. It’s a slow dawning in your mind that this is permanent. I like to face things with some humor thrown in when possible; especially in my art,” Burton wrote in an email.

Tempe artist Jasen Evoy also likes to approach his work with humor, but his themes are more whimsical in nature.

Evoy primarily does mixed media sculptures, which he said are “goofy, tongue-in-cheek” creations that are essentially visual puns. “(It’s) intended to be fun and not be super (serious),” said Evoy, the department chair for fine arts at Marcos De Niza High School in Tempe.

The exhibit includes five of Evoy’s pieces. One is his twist on the tortoise and the hare story, where the hare rides a motorcycle and wears a “hare and cross bones” jacket while the tortoise sits in the sidecar, hanging on for dear life.

Evoy’s other sculptures include an otter, floating on its back wearing swim trucks and googles while eating a Chipotle burrito, and a 3-foot-tall shrimp, sitting on a stool holding a cocktail shaker and martini glass.

Although Evoy has taught at Marcos for 15 years and exhibited in various shows around town, he said this is his biggest show to date.

“It’s important for the kids to see that I can walk the walk. I think it lends some validity to who I am as an art teacher if I’m able to create art.”

The free exhibit, which runs through September 7, includes a variety of educational elements and weekly workshops. The workshops take place on Saturdays and range from craft-making classes with local artists to informational sessions with educators from the Phoenix Zoo. Workshop details are available at

DETAILS >> 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. Free. (480) 350-2822 or

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