Trusting the Vision: Artist Carlos Page
Writer Sue Kern-Fleischer
Photography by Rich David
Surrounded by contemporary sculpture fashioned from steel, concrete and wood, Carlos Page’s open-air studio stands firmly against a desert backdrop. Framed by six metal posts that hold a sizable roof structure, the partially shaded studio gives Page the space he needs to get into his creative zone.
His work table is strewn with the tools that Page uses to grind, cut, chisel and pound geometric shapes and designs into and out of large pieces of reclaimed wood, raw steel, remnants of rusty metal tanks, pipes, beams and other odds and ends that he finds in metal yards. Off to one side are an acetylene torch and his welding machine, which he uses to shape, forge and fuse the materials.
Page, a Cave Creek resident, is this year’s featured directory artist for the 21st Annual Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour (HITH). As Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour, HITH takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 17, 18 and 19; and Nov. 24, 25, and 26. A signature event of the non-profit Sonoran Arts League, the free, self-guided tour features 174 artists in 44 studio locations throughout the scenic Desert Foothills communities of Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.
A staple of the Hidden in the Hills event has been the four-color, glossy artists’ directory, which includes a comprehensive listing of participating artists with an image of their art, a large, easy-to-read map of the studios, and advertisements from participating artists and community art partners.
In May, participating artists were invited to submit original pieces for consideration of the artists’ directory cover during a selection process. More than 80 pieces of art were submitted, and the committee chose a striking, contemporary piece by Page to be the featured artwork. The untitled wall sculpture is composed of steel and a 200-year-old wood beam that Page reclaimed from a building in New York City. It stands at 59 inches tall, 24 inches wide and 7 inches in depth.
“Choosing a featured cover artist was not easy, as there were so many terrific entries this year, but in the end, we were all drawn to Carlos’ stunning design and abstract form. He is a brilliant artist and a true visionary,” said HITH marketing chair Carole Perry, a glass artist who has opened her studio to patrons for all 21 years of the tour.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Page traveled extensively before settling in the United States in 1989 to pursue the study of fine art. After an apprenticeship at a metalworks studio in San Francisco, he moved to New York City and graduated from a special honors program at Hunter College. At Hunter, he focused on contemporary design and sculpture, creating functional and abstract pieces made with steel, concrete and wood.
In February 2001, Page opened his first sculpture studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan. Seven months later, his career came to an abrupt halt after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Page had weathered bad times before. His father died when he was a young boy, and he experienced the turmoil of Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ in the 1970s. The months after 9/11 were another dark period for him, with lots of uncertainty.
“It was a very difficult time, especially the first winter when I couldn’t heat the studio. I wore six layers of clothing because the boiler didn’t function and some of the windows were broken. I remember that everything in the studio froze,” Page said. “My salvation was to trust in my vision and to focus on my work. That has been my strength ever since.”
Page’s wife, LeeAnn, a teacher in New York City, was working while he began traveling in the northeast to attend art shows. A trip to Chicago in 2006 energized him to explore the country more as he fell in love with the city’s architecture and began building clientele there.
Page participated in the fine arts show circuit for many years. In 2011, he made his first trip to Arizona to participate in Thunderbird Artists’ Carefree show. The following year, he participated in the 10-week Celebration of Fine Art show in Scottsdale. This January will mark his seventh season exhibiting there.
Long-distance travel and the logistical challenges of hauling artwork to shows in Arizona and around the country spurred Page and his wife to invest in a mixed-use property in Cave Creek. In 2014, he moved his production and set up his studio in Arizona. He and his wife maintain their home in New Jersey, and she will soon join him in Arizona as she is close to retiring.
A grand part of Page’s inspiration has always come from the energy of the people and the places that he has encountered. His work reflects on the balance between the raw power of nature and the sophistication of the human experience.
“My work is straight-forward and honest—I don’t hide anything,” Page explained. “The accents in the material that happen over time and in nature, like cracks or nails in wood, or rough, uneven surfaces of metal, are accentuated for people to see. I love the history, texture, luminosity and playfulness of the material I work with.”
Describing the process as “magical,” he creates bold, abstract sculptures and furniture that reflect his love for nature, zest for life and passion for art. Each smaller component of a piece is welded together to become one large sculptural piece. There are no nails, screws or other items used to fasten the materials.
“There’s a simple, built-in quality to my work that is sturdy and dependable. For example, you can’t take the leg off of a bench —it is one complete piece,” Page said. “I think my work resonates with people because it is peaceful and harmonious, yet at the same time, it is dynamic.”
Of course, getting to that point of harmony takes a tremendous amount of focus and labor. Page rarely sketches out his designs. He counts on his gut to guide him. Background music plays a big role in his inspiration at work. The sound and rhythm help him focus. He has an extensive record album and CD collection, and he listens to everything from Brazilian and world music to bluegrass, rock ’n’ roll, jazz and classical.
“I begin by pulling materials apart, and then, like in the universe, there’s a transformation,” Page explains.
When he is in his studio, time is unimportant to him. He gives each piece its own time until he is satisfied with it. He doesn’t follow trends, and sales do not dictate his creative process. “I trust my instincts with each piece,” he said, adding that working with his hands is a humbling experience.
Paying close attention to form and proportion, he expends a tremendous amount of intellectual and physical energy on each creation.
“You go through a lot of discomfort when you’re hammering out a piece,” he said. “Not only is the physical work challenging, it requires full focus.” Losing focus leads to injuries, and Page joked that he has the scars to prove it.
This will be Page’s fourth year participating as a HITH studio host. His Studio #29 includes guest artists, painter Michael McKee, jeweler Rollande Poirier and ceramist Myron Whitaker.
Page said he is honored to have his work featured on the cover of the HITH artists’ directory.
“I am thrilled to have been chosen to represent Hidden in the Hills as this year’s featured artist. I hope my sculpture resonates with people, no matter what their background. It’s a strong, rustic piece that blends my love of nature with my passion for architecture,” he said.
The Sonoran Arts League is selling the 21st Annual Hidden in the Hills artists’ directories for $5 at the league’s new Center for the Arts, 7100 E. Cave Creek Rd., Suite 144, at Stagecoach Village in Cave Creek. The beautiful new office will serve as the information headquarters for the popular art tour.
Visit the Sonoran Arts League office to pick up artists’ directories, maps and inquire about other tour details prior to and during the tour. In addition, more than two dozen students will exhibit their work at Youth Art Studio 1 at the same location.