Passion Comes to Life at Arizona Fine Art Expo
Writer Sue Kern-Fleischer
Photography by Jeremy Bot and Pat Stacy
Glassblowing demonstrations and classes, chef demonstrations, live music and a roster of both new and acclaimed artists are returning to Phoenix for another year of camaraderie and creation of fine art. These are just some of the reasons to visit the Arizona Fine Art Expo, the popular 10-week fine art show that takes place January 12 through March 25. Known as one of Arizona’s best venues for collecting fine art, the Arizona Fine Art Expo runs daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. under the festive white tents at the southwest corner of Scottsdale and Jomax Roads, next to MacDonald’s Ranch.
For seasoned and new art collectors, the event offers the chance to visit 115 patron-friendly studios within a 44,000 square-foot space. Creativity flows daily as the artists sketch passionately in pencil, charcoal and pastels; sculpt and fire clay; chisel and shape stone; and saw and carve wood sculptures. Artists also paint in all media; stain and etch gourds; design lost wax casting; solder and weld jewelry; assemble mosaics, blow glass, plus fuse and kiln form glass sculptures. Art is for sale and commissions are welcomed.
“Many of our artists come from different parts of the country, and we even have some traveling from Ireland, Mexico, Peru, Ukraine and Canada to participate in the show. The expo provides a rare chance to meet them, watch them in action and learn about their passion, inspiration and techniques,” said Judith Combs, founding partner of the Arizona Fine Art Expo.
Combs is particularly excited about some of the new events planned during the show.
“We’re honored to be collaborating with Chef Giancarlo Stefanutto and owner Glenn Wagner of Sogno Toscano vineyard of Italy. Chef Giancarlo will demonstrate and share samples of delicious edibles from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. January 20 and February 10,” she said.
New Glassblower to Demonstrate and Teach
Combs is also looking forward to welcoming contemporary glass artist Gregory Tomb to the show. Tomb, who arrived from California in December, has been working on building a hot shop on the expo grounds, where he will conduct glassblowing demonstrations and offer glassblowing and glass fusing classes. More information about the classes can be found at gregorytglass.com.
Tomb’s passion for glass art dates back to his childhood in upstate New York when he and his family would visit the Corning Museum of Glass on their way to seeing relatives in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“That was the foundation for my love of glass,” Tomb said. “On each trip, I would beg my parents to stop at the museum so we could watch the glassblowers. It was so exciting and mystifying. I was captivated by it.”
He studied art at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York and spent the summer of 1997 teaching art in Boulder, Colorado. It was there that he did his first apprentice torch work for Mystic Family Glassworks.
A year later, he took a workshop from Emilio Santini at Urban Glass, which opened the door to assist other glass artists there. Several years later, he honed his precision skills working as a production glassblower in Simon Pearce’s factories in the Northeast.
“My experience at Simon Pearce taught me that I needed to learn the craft before I could make glass art. The discipline of production helped me transition from a hobbyist to an artist,” he said.
But glass was not his only passion. His spirit of adventure and love of the outdoors led him to explore other career paths as a whitewater rafting guide, ski instructor, sea kayaking guide, zip lining instructor and a team-building facilitator. He also played bass guitar for a band in Lake Tahoe for a few years.
“Glass was the one thing I kept coming back to,” Tomb said. “I was drawn to the fire and I felt most alive while making glass. Whether kiln-formed, hot-poured, fused, etched or blown, the possibilities are endless. You can spend a lifetime in any of the disciplines of glass and still have something to learn.”
While he thrives on the excitement of working with hot molten glass, it’s the process that captivates him the most.
“There’s a delicate balance of humility and ego. If you lose focus, the glass can shatter right before you. If you panic, it gets worse—it’s a lot like life,” he said. “In many ways, it’s like meditation. When you really feel in tune with it, anything is possible.”
He is equally passionate about sharing his knowledge with others, and he hopes people will take advantage of the classes he will teach at expo.
“Like any adventure, preparation is the key to safety,” Tomb said, joking that he has burned himself more times cooking at home than in his studio. “I spend a lot of time covering safety before letting students work with hot glass. It’s an exhilarating experience, and the best part is that you’ll be able to go home with a piece of glass art that you created.”
During the Arizona Fine Art Expo, Tomb will exhibit and sell a variety of vibrant bowls, vessels, flat glass wall sculptures and his signature glass pumpkins.
“Pumpkins are always magical—there is something fun and whimsical and almost inspiring about the way their stems curl, their ridges, texture and color,” he said.
His prices will range from under $100 to $700 for craft, decorative and functional pieces. Installation pieces may range from $1,000 to more than $10,000 depending on the complexity of each customized project.
Painter Puts Soul into Her Work
Scottsdale artist Pat Stacy has had people tell her that there is an energy to her work and in her booth at the expo—so much so that she has seen patrons stare at one of her paintings and be moved to tears.
While she never knows who will be affected by her work, she believes there is a spiritual connection as she paints, and she is always honored when others see the soul she puts into her work.
Like Tomb, she views her process of creating art much like meditation, only she’s working with acrylic paint and textures to create colorful, intense, abstract art on canvas, paper and wood.
While she has always been creative, life took her on a long, winding road to becoming a fine artist. A licensed professional counselor, she retired in 1994 to care for her ill husband who died later that year.
Grief struck her, but it also empowered her to help others.
“After my husband died, I decided I wasn’t rich, but I had enough to give my time away as a Red Cross mental health volunteer,” Stacy said.
For the next 13 years, she did disaster work across the nation, teaching classes and becoming the state and chapter lead for mental health.
A two-time survivor of breast cancer, she turned to painting first in 2008, after enduring several surgeries.
“I learned that if I painted, I didn’t hurt,” she said. “I painted eight to 12 hours a day, every day.”
Painting not only helped Stacy heal, it catapulted her toward a new career as a fine artist. Today, her subject matter draws from or is inspired by ancient and native cultures. Symbols in her work reflect her belief in life beyond what she sees and her gratitude for life itself. Some of the symbols come directly from native art, while others are her own creations.
Using bright colors and metallic paint, she prefers to paint with acrylics, often choosing those containing metals that change with patinas.
“Color makes my heart sing, and I think it does for other people too,” she said. “I love working with acrylic paints because they are so versatile.”
Much of her work is done on four wooden panels held together with dowels.
“My ‘Quadruvium’ pieces are named from the Roman use of the term to represent a crossroads where four roads meet, and I have four wooden cradles that are connected,” she said, adding that she creates the heavily textured paintings by building up layers of acrylic paint. She also employs crackling techniques to give the surfaces depth, and she is known for her fine line work on the sides and edges of her pieces.
This is Stacy’s eighth year participating in the Arizona Fine Art Expo.
“I love the warmth and the sense of family we have among the artists,” she said. “I really enjoy interacting with patrons and helping them to discover my hidden symbols and messages. Sometimes they help me see things in my art that I did not realize were there.”
Her evocative, contemporary pieces range from $250 to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and scope of each piece.