West Valley artists to take part in Arizona’s largest studio tour

Hidden in the Hills over 2 November weekends

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Arizona’s longest-running artist studio tour, Hidden in the Hills, will feature nearly a dozen talented, diverse artists from the West Valley.

A signature event of the non-profit Sonoran Arts League, Hidden in the Hills features 199 artists at 47 studio locations throughout the scenic Desert Foothills communities of Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale. Now in its 23rd year, the free, self-guided tour takes place 10 a.m.-5 p.m. during the last two weekends of November: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 22, 23 and 24, and Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1.

Two artists are participating in the event for the first time: Peoria painter Linda Paul-Sontag and Sun City West sculptor Richard Tucker.

Ms. Paul-Sontag’s interest in early United States history began as a child, when her family would travel throughout the Southwest to visit relatives.

“I was fascinated by roadside attractions, trading posts, motels, and small, dusty towns. Then, as an adult, I enjoyed the stories of the great population migrations, specifically the significance of the ‘Mother Road,’ Route 66, an artery that became the lifeblood for many families heading west for new opportunities,” she stated. “I still love to get off the Interstate highways when I travel. It might take more time getting from place to place, but seeing the countryside, towns, and people along state highways and roads makes for a more enriching experience.”

Recently, she began painting a new “Blue Highways” series, named after the blue lines representing the highways and rural roads on traditional maps.

“Typically, these run through small towns bypassed by the interstate highway system built in the 1950s through the 1960s,” she said. “My paintings include old gas stations and motels with neon signs. Sometimes I represent them as they appear today, and other times I show them as they would have appeared during the hey-day of road travel.”

During the tour, Ms. Paul-Sontag will exhibit and sell her acrylic and oil paintings at jeweler/mixed media artist Marlene Sabatina’s Studio #24 in Cave Creek. In addition to “Blue Highways,” she will showcase her “Eyes” series, which isolate the eyes of people who changed history or otherwise considered beloved by the public. Examples include Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Pablo Picasso.

Sculptor Mr. Tucker majored in history at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, but when he took an elective course in sculpture, he was hooked.

“I began carving wood as a child, but as an adult, I felt limited -- once you carve wood, it’s gone. When I started working with clay, I liked that I could add more or manipulate the clay to create shapes and images. I still experience delightful surprises with clay, and when the images form, it’s often better than I imagined.” he said.

After graduating, Mr. Tucker took sculpting courses and workshops in Colorado and settled in Loveland, home of the internationally renowned Loveland Fine Art & Sculpture Invitational Show. He worked as a United Methodist pastor for 11 years and he also taught high school history and psychology for 20 years, but in his spare time, he studied under other sculptors and spent time at the foundries observing the total process of casting bronzes. Since then, he has done the mold making, welding, patinas and other foundry work.

“There are 15 steps involved in casting bronze…it’s very labor intensive. Because I’ve had the hands-on experience, I supervise the process at the foundry I work with up in Prescott Valley,” he said.

Since pursuing his art full-time in 1993, Mr. Tucker has been juried into prestigious shows across the country, including the Loveland Invitational show. While he estimates that 60 percent of his work is wildlife sculpture, he also likes to focus on western and historical themes.

“The challenge for me as a sculptor of any subject is not only to bring that animal to life, but also to be darn sure that I am being faithful to the life spirit of that creature,” he stated. “So, first I go visit the subject in its natural habitat, if possible. I take photos, but most of all I observe the animal to try to get a feeling for its personality. Then I research the subject by reading and viewing all possible sources.”

During Hidden in the Hills, Mr. Tucker will exhibit a combination of tabletop sculptures and larger outdoor pieces, including a life-sized mountain goat at Kelly Mattes Studio #39 in Cave Creek.

Other West Valley artists participating in Hidden in the Hills include: Christa and Michael Francis, of Glendale, who will exhibit both sculpture and jewelry at Studio #47; Chuck Berry, of Glendale, who will exhibit paintings at Studio #37; Darlene Saucedo, of Peoria, who will exhibit gourd art at Studio #26; Diane Sepanski, of Peoria, who will exhibit jewelry at Studio #23; Bill Birke, of Sun City, who will exhibit metal and acrylic works at Studio #25; Kathryn Darner, of Sun City West, who will exhibit jewelry at Studio #18; Dan Romero, of Surprise, who will exhibit bronze sculptures at Studio #13; Jenifer Oberle, of Surprise, who will exhibit ceramics at Studio #24; Nancy Christy-Moore, of Surprise who will exhibit paintings at Studio #25; and Judy Moody, of Surprise, who will exhibit gourd art at Studio #34.

Art enthusiasts can download a map at HiddenInTheHills.org. In addition, directories and maps are located at the Sonoran Arts League’s Center for the Arts, 7100 E. Cave Creek Road, Suite 144, at Stagecoach Village in Cave Creek.

Call 480-575-6624.

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