West Valley artists will be part of Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour when Hidden in the Hills returns for a 24th consecutive year during the last two weekends of November: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20, 21 and 22 and Nov. 27, 28 and 29.
The popular event features several talented artists from the Northwest Valley.
Coordinated by the nonprofit Sonoran Arts League, this year’s free, self-guided tour features 140 artists at 35 socially-distanced, private studios throughout the scenic Desert Foothills communities of Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.
Download a map here.
Wood Figurative Sculptures Come to Life
Matt Werner, of Peoria, is a storyteller who brings his characters to life in the form of fine wood. Technically, he’s a narrative figural sculptor in the realism style. Whether he’s sculpting people in action, sitting quietly, reflecting, or he’s sculpting people in other everyday moments, his ultimate goal is for the viewer to find their own story in his sculpture.
“I’m fascinated by, amused by, and in awe of humanity,” Mr. Werner says. “I make these sculptures to remind others that life — and people in particular — are engaging, amusing, noble, beautiful, and joyous. This non-cynical perspective is very important to me in a world focused more on divisive differences than on unifying similarities.”
A native of Philadelphia, he was a teenager when he discovered an appreciation for art.
“I often visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and one day, I found Auguste Rodin’s Burghers of Calais installed on the parkway adjacent to the museum. I had never seen anything so powerful,” Mr. Werner said. “After that experience, I had a wholly different perspective on what art could be.”
He was also passionate about geology. After earning a doctorate degree, he embarked on a career in geology consulting that spanned more than three decades.
“In 2004, I started a gradual transition to an encore career as a sculptor. After working so many years in the sciences, sculpting wood gave me a new vocabulary for expressing myself. In 2011, I finally was able to step out of my previous career and become a full-time sculptor,” he says.
Some of Mr. Werner’s work is inspired by black and white newspaper photography from the past and other times, he sculpts what he sees on the street. And, if he feels strongly about a topic, like social justice, he will sculpt pieces that reflect what he observes.
He works exclusively with hard woods, such as maple, oak, walnut, mesquite, and alligator juniper, and he prefers to use dyes to enhance his stories with color.
“I prefer hard wood because they are durable. I use dyes to help bring out the grain in the wood,” he says.
Mr. Werner enjoys seeing how people react to his work, especially when they feel a personal connection to a piece.
“I feel like what I’m doing is a vocation…it’s a calling. There is some God-given intent that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he says.
This is Mr. Werner’s first year participating in Hidden in the Hills. Guests can meet him and see his work at Sylvia Fugmann Brongo’s Studio No. 28 in Cave Creek, where he will also demonstrate coloring and varnishing. Guests can also find his work at whiptailstudio.com.
Colorful Floral and Equine Paintings
Nancy Christy-Moore, a renowned painter, returns to Hidden in the Hills for her ninth year. A Surprise resident, she will exhibit and sell her colorful, abstract works at mixed media artist Bela Fidel’s Studio No. 19 in Scottsdale.
Ms. Christy-Moore studied at Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri, the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles before embarking on her career as a teacher and an artist more than 40 years ago.
During the early 1980s, she was drawn to working with mixed water media after taking classes with highly-acclaimed water media artists in southern California. After discovering an allergy to oil paints, she switched to watercolors and water-based media such as acrylics. She often adds rice paper collage and dry media, such as pastels and combines them on highly-textured canvases or panels to add depth.
“My paintings are built on a layering process that encourages spontaneity and emotional engagement,” Ms. Christy-Moore says. “I enjoy the fluidity and surprise combinations of shapes and shadows which often lead me into unintended directions. The biggest challenge using this no-planning technique is having a good composition along with telling the story I find in each painting.”
Her unique signature style of “Inner Painting” develops her colorful contemporary art from within on a subconscious level and reflects her love of horses, florals and energetic, free-flowing colors.
“My horse series results from a lifetime love of horses and speaks to the power and energy I connect with when painting them. My florals and abstracts reveal my underlying romance with color combinations and subtleties of texture,” she says, adding that she has shown her work at more than 20 solo exhibits, including two in Japan. In addition, she was featured in the Australian television show, “Put Some Colour in Your Life” in 2017.
Her work can also be found at nchristy.com.
Other Northwest Valley artists participating in Hidden in the Hills include: abstract painter Joye Melby, of Peoria, at Sylvia Fugmann Brongo’s Studio No. 28; gourd artist Darlene Saucedo, of Peoria, at Leea Arnold’s Studio No. 22; bronze artist Richard Tucker, of Sun City West, at Kelly Mattes Studio No. 29; jeweler Kathryn Darner, of Sun City West, at Pat Isaacson’s Studio No. 9; bronze artist Don Romero, of Surprise, at Joanie Wolter’s Studio No. 13; ceramist Jenifer Oberle, of Surprise, at Wesley Hartin’s Studio No. 8; and Waynette Bernt of Surprise, at Paul Diefenderfer’s Studio No. 35 in Cave Creek.
Editor’s note: Susan Kern-Fleischer is with SKF Public Relations.