Category: TLM

Re-envisioning Mid-Century Modern

As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again.” Artist Andy Burgess, whose a local exhibition starts this month, has a distinctive and fascinating way of looking at designs from our near past.

By Scott Barker

Andy Burgess sees things that most of us don’t — tiny nuances in shapes and colors. But then, that’s his job.

Andy Burgess in front of one of his artworks

A native of London, the talented and engaging visual artist grew up surrounded by deeply rooted history, and many branches of noteworthy architecture and design, all of which were worthy of detailed study.

“As a child, I was surrounded by beautiful buildings,” he reveals, explaining that he lived very close to the Hampstead area. “It’s a historic neighborhood, famous for writers and intellectuals. The Bloomsbury Set often were there, along with people like Karl Marx. It’s like a village, with wonderful old houses and buildings. And yet, in the early 20th century, there were visionaries who built modernist architecture there as well.”

Andy’s father was John Burgess, an actor who had a long career in both the theater (including with the Royal Shakespeare Company), and on the big and small screens. His mother Lana had been a secretary, and then after his parents split up, a homemaker, remarrying and raising Andy and his siblings Harvey and Paul. Although his mom was an aficionado of the theater and opera, Andy says that all the culture surrounding him didn’t lead him toward the stage or into music.

“I went to a very academic school, so I wasn’t overly encouraged to do art. In fact, I didn’t do art properly until well into my university life. When it came to choosing my subject matters at school, I ended up studying history, geography, English, Latin, but I didn’t do art or music, which is a real regret for me. But I guess I’ve made up for it now!”

His initial focus was on politics, and he attended Leeds University for a four-year poli-sci degree that included him working for a congressman on Capitol Hill for six months, and in the British House of Parliament for an additional six months. “It was a hugely competitive program to get into; they only took six people every year. That was an amazing four-year degree, which I completed, but it was only in the last year of study that I started to get completely obsessed with art and realized that maybe my heart lay not in politics, but in art.”

Subsequently while attending art school, Andy found his voice and his passion in abstract painting. But he also discovered a distinctive skill set that circled back to his fascination with man-made structures. “In abstract painting … everything has to do with lines, geometry, space and receding planes,” he comments. “It just worked out over time that using architecture as my subject was a very good way of exploring that, but still maintaining one foot in the representational world that people understand. It was kind of a convenient hook.”

Painting has not been his only medium, however. “I also do a lot of photography, and it’s very critical to what I do. It doesn’t provide the commercial success that the painting has provided, but it’s absolutely integral. My favorite thing in the world is to be in a city and walk around for hours. It doesn’t matter where I am; I will find interest anywhere. In a paving stone, mailbox, or lamppost and specifically, looking up. Most people don’t walk around on a daily basis looking up. But it’s become second nature for me. I’m walking around with a camera, and everything is potential subject matter, whether it’s a plant coming out of a brick, or a shadow over a crumbling wall. That becomes a really fun way of being in the world.”

Over time, he carved out a niche as a visual artist in his hometown. “I was doing cityscapes — aerial views and street scenes — and I had a certain degree of success in London. I was building a nice career. I also had an article in Modern Painters magazine.”

But though that part of his life was taking off, a very important area remained grounded. “I was in my 30s, and I was having a rough time of it in London for health reasons. I realized I could not function in cold, damp weather. My body was shutting down and I was ill every other week.”

Bank of America, Tucson, AZ, 2018 watercolor on paper

He had an escape plan, however, involving the Old Pueblo, a place with which he had a familial connection. “In the 1980s, the Royal Shakespeare Company sent out small groups of actors, like a troupe, to America to teach Shakespeare in American universities,” explains Andy. “My dad did one of those tours with some really great actors, and one of the places they came to was Tucson. And my dad, bless him, was quite eccentric. He loved out-of-the-way places, and hated anything pretentious. He loved it here, and he used to talk about Tucson all the time.”

Fast forward a few years, and Andy’s oldest brother Harvey and his wife moved to Tucson, where she landed a job as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital. The Burgess family came out on visits, and it seemed the perfect place for Andy to get out of the cold and wet.

Living in the Southwest changed his life in many ways. He married his girlfriend and they had a child, and Andy turned his attention to painting images of Mid-Century Modern buildings. “The whole interest in painting specific modernist architecture happened just before I moved to Arizona,” he says. “I was really interested in Bauhaus and European modernism. And when I moved here, the access was far more to the heir of that, which was Mid-Century Modern. Those architects who were from that tradition, like Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra, were émigrés. They came to the States and some of them settled in LA, and a few worked for Frank Lloyd Wright. That mixture of the Prairie style, Bauhaus and Modernism, with help from Palm Spring architects like Donald Wexler, Albert Frey and those guys, came to form a unique style of American architecture. You put all that together, and suddenly you have Bauhaus transferred to the desert. And I fell in love with that. It made perfect sense to follow through from drawing Bauhaus to drawing and painting Mid-Century, and going back and forth between the two to enjoy the connections.

Moving to America has been a boon to Andy’s career, and he notes, “This year has been my best to date. I had the Nazraeli book [Mid-Century Perspectives: Paintings by Andy Burgess and Objects of Modern Design], and the Tucson Museum of Art exhibition, followed by a sell-out show in New York. Those three things were really phenomenal.” He notes that he has been so busy that he has had to turn down requests from galleries, as well as some commissions.

Welcome Diner, Tucson, AZ, 2018 watercolor on paper

Fortunately, he found the time in his hectic schedule for a very special exhibition, which will be unveiled on Oct. 5 during Tucson Modernism Week. Titled Andy Burgess: Sunshine Mile Modern, this show at the Sunshine Shop (located in the historic former Hirsh’s Shoes store), explores the modernist buildings on the strip of Broadway between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road. “I’m recording the Sunshine Mile, both in paintings and photography,” Andy elaborates. “I am hoping to do a photography book eventually as well. It isn’t just looking at the buildings from afar. It’s also the details — the brick and stonework and the design.”

He is unquestionably drawn to the Southwest Modernist style, and he says that his step-mother-in-law Kathy McGuire is writing a book on architect Judith Chafee, soon to be published by Princeton Architecture Press. “We’re very close,” he comments about McGuire, “and have a lot in common. She’s always loved sharing her architectural tradition with me. She was a student of Judith Chafee and worked for her.”

During any free moments, Andy likes to spend time playing with his son Jonathan, as well as swimming, practicing martial arts such as Aikido, and cooking. “A lot of time is spent thinking about food, shopping and preparing food. I love making risotto. I’ve made a few paellas as well. That’s a hobby, but I often think to myself, if I hadn’t become a painter, I’d have been a chef!”

Or maybe a writer. He did, after all, grow up in a place known for its authors, and he had to write lengthy dissertations for his degrees. With a nod to his literary side he sums up, “I started this publishing company  Dark Spring Press and that was purely out of passion and naiveté. And it’s been fun. It’s a massive learning curve, but I love analog. I love physical things.”  

TSO Turns 90!

Its ability to be highly flexible is only one of the reasons why the Tucson Symphony Orchestra is 90 and going strong.

In 1928, Herbert Hoover was the president of the United States, Walt Disney introduced the public to Mickey Mouse, and Eliot Ness and his “Untouchables” were battling organized crime in Chicago. In theaters, audiences could thrill to Greta Garbo in The Mysterious Lady; at home, a tiny percentage of the population got a first taste of something called television; and in the concert hall, they could hear Maurice Ravel’s brand-new composition, Bolero.

In the Old Pueblo, musical history of another type was about to be made. Harry Juliani, a WWI vet, lawyer, and amateur musician, convinced a group of community leaders and music aficionados to assist in forming a symphony orchestra. A group of about 60 musicians came together for practices under the baton of Camil Van Hulse, a Belgian pianist/organist/composer. The following year, the orchestra held its first concert at Tucson High School’s auditorium, performing both Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, and Schubert’s overture for the early 19th century play Rosamunde.

Concertmaster Lauren Roth at the Tucson Symphony Center. Photo by Tom Spitz.

Fast forward nine decades and The Roaring Twenties may be long over, but the TSO roars on. Just as with its inaugural concert, there will be both Beethoven and Schubert programmed during the 2018-19 season.

Sit down for a conversation with three of the symphony’s key leaders — President and CEO Tom McKinney, Music Director José Luis Gomez, and Concertmaster Lauren Roth — and you can tell immediately that the passion that launched the TSO flows through their veins.

“I am incredibly honored to be part of a group celebrating its 90th birthday,” observes Roth. “It speaks of the excellence of the orchestra, its leadership, and all the people and parts involved in running the ship. It indicates their desire and dedication to being relevant and important in Southern Arizona.”

Maestro Gomez adds, “I think this 90 years represents what Tucson has become. There is positive energy happening around the city, and the symphony is part of it. We’re connecting more and more with the community, and I’m very happy that we’re getting wonderful feedback and results from events like the All Souls Procession, and the education programs that we have.”

Picking up on those comments, McKinney elaborates, “José loves saying that 90 years ago, somebody had a vision of building an orchestra in the desert, and succeeded. That piece is our building block for the next 90. It’s great to celebrate our past, and some of the things we’ve accomplished, but we’re really looking forward to the next step for the TSO. How do we continue to impact the community that we’re in?”

The 2018-19 season certainly offers many clues about the symphony’s plans for enlarging its musical imprint on Tucson.

“We have some projects that are ongoing in terms of repertoire, such as including a little Brahms cycle, with each year a Brahms symphony,” says Gomez. “Also performing Schubert, a composer I would love for the orchestra to explore more. We’re adding more of his symphonies. Those two composers are the ones that give me the chance to tweak the orchestra in terms of the sound and the way of playing. Part of my artistic vision is to include repertoire that for some reason hasn’t been performed. One composer that hasn’t been explored from the German Romantic repertoire is Anton Bruckner. We’re excited to be playing his Symphony No. 7 this year.”

“I look forward to opening the season with Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, which is an incredible piece. To start with it tells everybody in the audience, ‘This orchestra has something to say.’ The piece is huge and monumental … and turning 90 is a monumental occasion for a symphony orchestra.” — Lauren Roth

TSO’s music director also is planning to honor both his own Hispanic heritage and the history and culture of the Southwest with an expanded Latin American repertoire. This season, audiences will hear a piece by Evencio Castellanos, a Venezuelan composer, and the U.S. premiere of the violin concerto from Luis Enriquez Bacalov, the Argentine composer who became famous for his scores for Italian films.

The Classic 5 concert will feature the U.S. premiere of a trumpet concerto by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. “We’re doing that with a very dear friend of mine who is one of the top trumpet players in the world today, Pacho Flores,” says Gomez. “The co-commission of that piece put Tucson on the map because we are commissioning together with an orchestra from Spain, the national symphony orchestra of Mexico, and an orchestra from Japan.”

Ask Concertmaster Roth what she is most excited to perform this season and she notes, “I’m certainly looking forward to performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, which I consider to be one of the very hardest concertos in the violin repertoire. It’s also one of the greatest ever written, and I’m lucky that it was composed for my instrument.”

Music Director José Luis Gomez. Photo courtesy of Tucson Symphony Orchestra.

McKinney is quick to say that one of the concerts he is most eagerly awaiting is Masterworks 5, which will feature Gomez stepping away from the podium to perform the first violin part for Mozart’s Serenade No. 6 for Strings (Serenata notturna). “It’s a piece I have played with my brother many times,” says Gomez. “It’s a little bit unknown, unlike Mozart’s famous night music serenade in G major — Eine Kleine Nachtmusik — which everyone is familiar with. He wrote many serenades, and most of them have solo violin passages.”

The plans on the horizon include the possibility of a tour for the orchestra, recording pieces that are unique to the TSO, and maybe … someday … a new concert hall.

With a willingness to perform overlooked pieces, commission new works (including from alumni of the Young Composers Project), and an eagerness to feature some of the world’s finest touring performers, the TSO continually showcases its commitment to the community.

Perhaps nowhere is the TSO’s direct interface with the future more evident, however, than the Just for Kids free concerts that take place at the Tucson Symphony Center on North Sixth Avenue. For many children, who lack access to live classical music, this series opens a door to a world they never knew existed. Sums up McKinney, “Two years ago, a girl about seven years old was leaving after a Just For Kids performance and she came up to me. It was her first experience at a concert. She said, ‘This was the best day of my life.’” TL

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Letter from the Editor

A Tail With A Happy Outcome

Photo by Tom Spitz

Take a good look at Gordon on our cover and gaze deep into his eyes.

Scientific research has found that when dogs and their human companions share long eye contact, the levels of oxytocin — the love hormone — increase in both.

But anyone who has shared their life with a dog already knows that. They also know that going on walks, relaxing with a cup of coffee and a book, listening to jazz, and whipping up a big weekend dinner are all better in the company of a dog, too.

Our annual Cover Dog Search celebrates the many ways in which having canines in our lives makes us whole, as individuals, and as a community. This year, about 150 dogs showed up, not only vying for a place on our cover, but helping to raise money to benefit the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. To read more about Gordon, and our runner-up, Scout, as well as see many other tailwaggers, turn to page 28.

Fortunately, the Old Pueblo boasts many restaurants with patios that are dog-friendly, so you can bring your canine buddy while you enjoy a meal. We asked Sarah Burton to visit six eateries that are happy to serve you and your well-mannered furry friend. Turn to page 32 to see our pet approved picks!

There’s lots more to peruse, too. Our In Health (beginning on page 40) will update you on evaluation and treatment of hearing disorders. Learn what glass sculptures Tom Philabaum considers his favorites on pages 66-73. Checkout events happening around town in Datebook, beginning on page 17. And should you need legal services, you’ll certainly want to study the list that starts on page 46, excerpted from Best Lawyers in America, compiled by Best Lawyers and Co. LLC.

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Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.

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