Why the Men’s Arts Council Helped Fund the ‘Desert Rider’ Exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum’s current exhibition “Desert Rider (Navegando El Desierto)” features works in multiple mediums by Indigenous and Latino artists working in the Southwest who examine the relationships between transportation, culture, and identity. It is a body of work that is as socially profound as it is visually compelling.
One of the show’s funders is the PAM Men’s Arts Council. It is a non-profit charitable organization that raises funds to support exhibitions, acquisitions and art education at the museum.
It’s also a band whose members totally love cars.
Auto enthusiasts may be familiar with their annual auto events: the Bell Lexus North Scottsdale Copperstate 10000 Road Rally and the Copperstate Overland Vintage Car Off-Road Rally. Another of their fundraisers is the MAC & Friends Fun Shoot, where clay targets are jumped after breakfast.
Joel Coen, the chairman of the Men’s Arts Council, felt their support was vital once they knew what the exhibit would include.
“We’re heavily based on cars and automotive history. When we saw the number of lowrider components that would be included, that’s what first struck us internally. Then we saw the skateboard component and the overall automotive presence that it would contain, and those are all things that relate directly to us and are really close to our hearts,” he says.
On the automotive side, there are some glorious builds. The size of Justin Favela’s car Pink Gypsy Piñata (III) is one. It hangs from the ceiling, lifting its front end and resting on its bottom. The stance brings the auto-pinata to life and replicates the motion and bounce inherent in many lowrider car creations. It’s made of found objects, cardboard, paper, and glue, and its color palette exemplifies Mexican celebratory traditions. Mexican Americans gave rise to the culture of lowrider cars, which highlights these creative origins.
by Liz Cohen Trabantimino caused a stir when it debuted in 2010 – with good reason. The artist spent eight years combining two very different vehicles – an East German Trabant and a Chevy El Camino – into a lowrider. She was inspired by the boldness of Chicano culture by making cars that drove low and slow, which didn’t make it easy for someone to look away.
is also part of desert riderby Cohen Stories best told by others features color inkjet prints of Lowrider magazine covers with hand-painted enamel that boldly and elegantly displays the names of the women who have graced the magazine’s covers. Cohen gives these women — who were as influential in the culture as their male counterparts — deserved recognition.
Speaking of not being able to turn away, the installation of Douglas Miles, You skate on native land, envelops you in its adjoining L-shaped walls and holds you in a natural pause. It’s a great place reminder, consisting of three rows of evenly lined skateboards below the title, each labeled with the exact words.
The walls also feature images of people from the Miles Apache community, young and old. Keeping the past alive while focusing on the present and the future is where Miles prevails. Founder of Apache Skateboards and a prolific artist working across multiple mediums, Native American life news is what you get, delivered with restless, relentless intent.
Coen found the piece particularly moving. “It’s a very important piece,” he says. “Miles explained how his work explores the negotiation of traditional indigenous values with contemporary life. I thought it was an insightful and educational way for me to examine and reflect on his art.
He finds in the exhibition as a whole a real way of exploring other cultures.
“There are probably millions of times people see images of a lowrider car in a music video, on television or in a magazine, without really knowing where these cars came from – who made them and why. They don’t understand the Latin culture they come from or the artistry associated with it. We want everyone to see the time and effort put into these cultural creations and what it means. To see the beauty of an object and, more importantly, the culture behind it is the most important part.”
WFP desert rider does a great job of bringing together a diverse and stellar mix of artists who blend emotional elements of their respective individual and cultural identities into their work.
Coen, who says the Men’s Arts Council is looking to do more work in the area of arts education, hopes the community will come see what Desert Rider has to offer and that his group looks forward to being part of other exhibits that have a similar impact.
The special exhibition desert rider until September 18 at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central Avenue.