Desert vegetation colors new Chandler gallery exhibit SanTan Sun News

Desert vegetation colors new Chandler gallery exhibit

Desert vegetation colors new Chandler gallery exhibit
Arts
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By COLLEEN SPARKS
Managing Editor

Two Chandler residents are among the many artists sharing their creative pieces celebrating cacti and other native vegetation in Arizona at a multimedia exhibit.

Janet Keller and Steven Velazquez created artwork chosen for the “Fantastical Botanicals” exhibit through Aug. 25 at The Gallery at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.

The two are among nearly 20 artists selected for the show with artwork reflecting a broad range of styles. An opening reception for the artists will be held from 6 to 8 tonight, May 18, at The Gallery at Chandler Center for the Arts.

The exhibit features paintings, ceramics and other multimedia pieces inspired by botanicals in the state and outside of Arizona.

“I think that botanicals are relatable and there’s a reason that we give flowers as gifts and especially a lot of people think of the desert as a place that is dead but the palo verde trees right now have been so, so bright and yellow,” said Peter Bugg, visual arts coordinator for the City of Chandler. “There’s a reason we’re attracted to these colors, as are the insects that pollinate them.”

Keller, who turns 61 May 19; and Velazquez, 66, have diverse backgrounds and have worked in other fields. They are excited to show their work in “Fantastical Botanicals.”

“I’m thrilled that I was accepted into the exhibit and it’s really my first step back into exhibiting my art,” Keller said. “I’m excited to see the other artists’ work. I think with something that has a botanical or floral or something living-based, they (the public) will relate to it and enjoy it more.”

She paints primarily using watercolor but also using acrylic and other formats. Keller also does printmaking and creates mixed media and clay pieces.

She taught art for 17 years in the Kyrene School District, first at Kyrene de la Paloma Elementary School and then at Kyrene de la Mirada – Leadership Academy.

Keller has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Arizona State University and has earned the required number of course hours for a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in arts education from ASU but didn’t petition for that degree.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois; Keller moved to Arizona as a young child and as an adult has lived in Scotland and Russia with her husband, Gerry Keller, and their two children, Laura and Andrew, due to Gerry’s work.

She is now retired from teaching and her children are adults. Keller had also previously worked for a company that performed quality assurance audits of restaurants.

She said she loved living in Scotland and Russia.

“Of course I loved being able to access…all the European art and also meeting the people, getting to know the people of other countries and cultures,” Keller said.

In order to paint cacti flowers, she first took photographs of them.

“The idea is that you can literally have this beauty, just step out your door,” Keller said. “If you get to see cacti flowers in a way it’s amazing because you have to have your timing right. The desert is what I know and I enjoy.”

She said her background in science has helped her as an artist.

“I tend to look at details anyway,” Keller said. “I think that art and science are much more closely linked than people realize. There’s a lot of creativity, imagination and exploration that happens in both fields.”

She said in the 1980s her artwork was selected to be exhibited in the Tucson Museum of Art and in the late 1980s her creations were chosen to run in different spaces around the Valley through a Phoenix artists’ organization.

Keller got her start as an artist as a child. Her father was a painter and he gave her high-quality pastel drawing pencils.

Velazquez began his artistic ventures later in life in 2005. He took art classes at Chapman University in Anaheim, California, where his wife worked at the time. He retired as a UPS driver in 2004 and had earned an associate’s degree in social sciences years ago.

“I just decided an art class would be fun,” Velazquez said.

A father of four adult children and two adult stepchildren, and a grandfather of eight grandchildren, he said Chandler, Mesa and downtown Phoenix have a “really vibrant art community.”

Velazquez created paintings and multimedia pieces that were displayed at a gallery in Chandler about 10 years ago. Velazquez has also shown his work at a library in California and he now serves on Chandler’s Arts Commission.

He and his wife, Bobbi Fisher, teach Art Masterpiece classes at Basha Elementary School in Chandler.

Velazquez said he creates art because he enjoys it and he is thrilled to have his work shown in the “Fantastical Botanicals” exhibit.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s a great bunch of local artists. I’m never gonna stop doing it. I do it for myself. I love it.”

Admission to The Gallery at Chandler Center for the Arts is free and hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Information: chandlercenter.org/gallery-cca

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