Apache Junction artist mentors students
By Candace S. Hughes
From the permanent collection of the Scottsdale Center for the Arts to the Phippen Museum of Western Art outside of Prescott to the Larsen Gallery in Scottsdale, Anne Coe’s paintings of landscapes and animals intrigue and inspire.
And in addition to pursuing her own career, she encourages painting and drawing students at the Superstition Mountain campus of Central Arizona College where she has taught for seven years.
Some of her students’ most recent projects include a series of murals on the interior of the campus. A Wall of Fame mural for awards in the Central Arizona Lifelong Learning program office, a large work just outside that area and now a mural by the student lounge have kept students staying after class and coming in at night and on non-class days.
“They’ve done a great job,” said Vera Walters, program coordinator for the Central Arizona Lifelong Learners program.
One night just before the holidays three students appeared to project an image of a windmill on the wall so that an accurate portrayal of the structure could be made. They also show up for class during spring break and stay after their usual 10 a.m.-1 p.m. class time.
“It’s really important to us that it turns out well. We have a lot invested in this,” said Lori Berry, 50, who has taken Coe’s classes since 1999 and has expanded her painting into glass art now shown at the Crystal Garden in Apache Junction.
An advanced painting student, she also will be showing at the Gold Canyon Arts Festival Jan. 27 at Gold Canyon Elementary School.
The students learn from each other and the lead artist on the current mural is Linda McDonald, 57, a Pinal County resident in the Apache Junction area. Their homework included sketching the mural and getting it approved by Bob Salmon, the Superstition Mountain campus dean, she said.
Strolling around the campus during lunchtime in December, Salmon stopped to admire the students’ progress.
Painting incorporates community vistas
“We are the community’s college, not just a community college,” said Salmon, who said he was glad that the mural reflects the Superstition Mountain and the old West. He requested a water theme for this mural and the students incorporated a windmill that will blend with a fountain to be placed in the courtyard.
Coe also supervises and recommends shading and more effort to incorporate a realistic three-dimensional effect.
Phil Lansing, 24, an Apache Junction resident working on an associate’s degree in business, is a Painting I student and has taken art classes for several years. He was involved in drawing the sketches and getting the dean’s approval before the work on the most recent mural began in September. The students plan to finish by May.
Lansing, whose family owns Saguaro Family Fitness in Apache Junction, painted a mural inside that building to enhance the business’s interior.
McDonald, also a Painting I student, said she liked art as a child and in high school, but got married and had kids and “things like art went by the wayside.” When her husband suggested she pick up art again a year ago, she began in Coe’s drawing classes.
She now has painted murals at her home and is developing this skill into a business.
A huge positive response from the community about the students’ first mural, which Berry directed, led the way for a second effort.
“The dean called our instructor during the summer and said he wanted another mural. There’s a new student lounge and he suggested a mural outside that area. We began formulating ideas during the summer vacation,” she explained.
The students didn’t want the cute kind of cartoonish mural, and did preliminary drawings that incorporated all their ideas. “We submitted it to the dean and he said to go with it. We also have been given carte blanche on any wall in the school,” she said proudly.
The painting, which was sketched in charcoal and chalk that could be rinsed off with water, allows the work to evolve and gives the students flexibility if they see a particular idea isn’t working.
Guest artists such as Dawn Nehls have stopped by to paint ringtails, and Berry’s 24-year-old son, George, helps with painting the sky and background.
Coe nurtures students to success
The instructor’s realm of influence extends beyond the CAC campus.
Coe is a co-founder of the Superstition Area Land Trust, a community-based land conservancy, and she solicited signatures for the State Trust Land Initiative at her Apache Junction home and studio during the Art for Land’s Sake Tour in 2005.
During that tour she greeted visitors with an outstretched hand: “I’m Anne Coe. Who are you? Do you live out here?” Then she invited them to sign her mailing list and showed them a copy of “Apacheland Burning” available for $150 and asked them to sign the petition.
Apacheland was a Gold Canyon movie studio with gift shops and a restaurant that burned several years ago.
As part of Coe’s efforts to encourage students, she has allowed Berry to show her fused-glass art during several of the tours. “These are the students whose work is professional enough that it can be bought and they have things to sell,” Coe said. “Not every student is ready for that. They must consistently produce art.”
Berry took a heavy three-layered glass piece out of the kiln at midnight before the tour began.
“I’ve used stuff I’ve learned from Anne. She keeps us excited about art.”
The price of the heavy piece is $700, but Berry said it’s really not for sale. Fish appear to be swimming in the distance in the piece, and more color can be seen in a close-up view.
“She (Coe) helps with color and composition,” Berry said. “She helps get a feeling of depth in your piece.”
“Finding Anne’s class really helped me a lot,” Berry said. “Before I was interested in art, but now I’m really doing it and when I’m stuck she helps me.”
Although some attending the CAC classes are traditional college students, many have life experiences to include in their work. Some are pursuing art for pleasure, and others are accumulating pieces to apply to art school or start a business.
Vicki Averill, of Apache Junction, a painting and drawing student, has been working toward a degree in art. “I’m slightly different than some of the students. It’s nice she can with the various needs of the students so I can get a portfolio together to get into art school,” she said during her visit to Coe’s home.
The Painting I and II and Drawing I and II classes are complemented by individual studies students who bring in work for Coe to critique during the two mornings a week that she teaches at the college. “I’ve learned so much,” Averill said.
Students evaluate each other
In addition to Coe’s instruction, the students critique and praise each other. “They’re so special,” Averill said as she gazed at Berry’s latest offerings during the art tour. “That’s a good price,” she added, as she looked over the $250 global warming piece which included bubbles to convey the effect of rising temperatures. “I’ll be back,” Averill said.
Students aren’t afraid to discuss their mistakes with their friends and fellow artists. “This is what it looks like when you forget to turn off the kiln,” said Berry, showing a tile with flat black paint.
Coe said she also listened to her students who critiqued her “Liar Liar Pants on Fire,” a work for her exhibition “Mood Swings” at the Larsen Gallery. In the painting a monkey sits in a Washington, D.C. background and bananas are dropping from the sky.
“I thought about missiles, but decided against that,” said Coe, who listens to National Public Radio as she works. “I’ve been teaching since 1998 and I didn’t really want to, but they asked me because I have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from ASU. I fell in love with it. It’s worked out really well. I’ve learned a lot from the students,” she quipped.
Students look at art in different ways
Coe’s love of the land is reflected in her activities related to painting and teaching.
Her non-traditional work includes “Urban Buckarette.” It depicts a woman astride a bronco in downtown Prescott and has been shown at the Phippen Museum of Western Art north of Prescott.
While the Cowboy Artists of America show at the Phoenix Art Museum each year has a mythological view of the West, Coe said her work portrays and nurtures other views of art.
She recently has produced a series titled “Mood Swings” that has been shown at the Larsen Gallery in Scottsdale. Her painting of a bulldozer making a wide path through the desert is in the permanent collection at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.
“I’m giving students another point of view,” she said, showing a traditional still life she painted, and then still life paintings of fruit and animals including bears.
“You must paint a bear reading a book for me,” said Elly VanGelderen, an ASU English professor who lives in Gold Canyon and visited Coe’s studio during the tour.
“Elly takes these classes because they are the opposite of what she does – teaching linguistics – and she does these drawings, watercolors and pastels wonderfully,” Coe said.
The professor has painted a portrait of Berry and her husband, Richard. As Berry recognized Gelderen, she directed her over to her art. “This is the direction I’m taking now,” she said as she showed her the glass bowl she recently created. “This is the first concentric circle I’ve cut,” she said, pointing to a $75 bowl.
In addition, students work out their reactions to life’s experiences as Coe has done in her series ”Life Examined” painted as her husband was dying of leukemia in the late 1990s.
Gold Canyon resident B.J. Ludwig, 63, who helps care for her aging mother, displayed a painting depicting her mother’s confused thinking process caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’ve already bought from you,” Coe said to Berry, but I haven’t bought from you,” she said to Ludwig, a retired teacher who began a career as a mixed-media artist six years ago.
Ludwig also sells books of collage work “expressing what I feel inside. I charged $50 because there is so much time and effort that goes into these,” she added. “I just go crazy. I add things that hang down such as beads and things you can pull out and I do it for fun,” she added.
“I started with Anne doing acrylics and every year she exposes us to new media. One year ago there was a collage and another time she exposed us to monoprinting, said Ludwig, who began to work in both types of media. “She keeps you growing.”
Following Coe’s example, Berry and Ludwig nurture each other.
While waiting for additional customers during the tour, Ludwig discussed her annual Christmas card and Berry added, “I have to do my Christmas card. “That’s a really nice card,” she said of Ludwig’s collage. “I suppose I’ll get one in the mail and it’s frameable.”
Moving around Ludwig’s display, Berry said, “I like this one, and this one, too. That’s really cool,” she said of Ludwig’s use of monoprinting entitled “Civilization.”
“Some lasting friendships have come from the classes,” Coe said, pointing out that she had solicited a former student, Barbara Washburn of Apache Junction, to help her with the signatures.
Berry agreed. “I enjoyed doing nursing and I was a good nurse,” but now all my friends are artists.”
If you go
Anne Coe’s paintings may be seen through Jan. 31 at the Larsen Gallery, 3705 N Bishop Lane, Scottsdale. Telephone 480-941-0900 or visit www.larsengallery.com.
Showings at her Apache Junction home are done by appointment. Call 480-982-0473 or visit www.annecoe.com.
Central Arizona College Superstition Mountain campus students will be painting most Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m. when the spring semester starts Jan. 16 near the student lounge on the interior of the campus at 273 Old West Highway near Winchester Road, Apache Junction.
Lori Berry’s fused-glass pendants may be purchased at Crystal Garden, 320 W. Superstition Blvd., #115, Apache Junction. 480-671-5951.
B.J. Ludwig may be reached at 480-982-0485 or firstname.lastname@example.org