Gallery auction; Art donated by some of Tucson's
best-known artists

Friday, 11 October 1996
Pamela Portwood, Special to The Arizona Daily Star

Dinnerware Contemporary Art Gallery held its first Fund-Raising Art Auction and Edible Art
Sale in 1982. Some of the most popular items were a still life of stacked Campbell's soup cans
and one of the gallery members' cheese bread.

There are still food and still lifes at Dinnerware's 15th Annual Art Auction Fund Raiser, but
things have gotten a little more sophisticated. The artwork is donated by close to 90 of
Tucson's best-known artists, and the catered food at the reception will be contemporary
Mexican with Chinese influences.

Many local causes have taken up art auctions as fund-raisers, but Dinnerware's executive
director, Nora Kuehl, says, ``This is an art auction for art's sake.'' The event is crucial to the
cooperative gallery, raising one-third to one-half of its annual budget.

The auction on Oct. 19 is a way for patrons to support the gallery, to have a fun night of food,
drink, music, talk and bidding, and to go home with a work of art to treasure. An exhibition of
the work to be auctioned can be viewed in advance this Saturday and Tuesday through the
following Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.

The evening of the auction comes compliments of the community. The food, drink, printing
costs and professional auctioneering are all donated. A mountain bike from Bargain Bicycles, a
$100 gift certificate from Janos Restaurant and many more raffle prizes also are donated by
local businesses.

Of course, the big donations are from the artists who give tens of thousands of dollars worth
of work. ``We are really grateful for the generosity of the artists,'' says Kuehl.

The featured work at the auction is an amazing ceramic sculpture by Gary Benna, Dinnerware
president. ``St. Sebastian'' is 3 feet tall. Three nude male figures hold up an egg-shaped vase
that opens to reveal a three-dimensional scene of nude figures shooting arrows at St.

The outside of the vase is incised with images of the soldiers who killed the martyr and of the
women removing the arrows from his body. The scene inside the vase brings this tale to life,
transforming a traditional Greek vase into a sculpture of men rendered in the stark shapes of
muscles and bones.

Dan Kristen's ``Study for `Discovery' '' is a tall, narrow oil painting that perfectly frames a
proud nude woman standing in front of a turbaned man. His hand and part of his cloak are
translucent shadows on her skin, and, in places, the texture of the wood shows through. The
study offers a captivating glimpse into a larger narrative.

Eriks Rudans' ``Dead Soldier #11'' is a striking portrait in relief of a man who seems vibrantly
alive despite the small, bleeding hole in his neck.

Kimberly Roach donated an unusual piece: ``Two Left Feet'' cast in chocolate and displayed in
an old makeup case.

Among the many other artists who have contributed works to the auction include Gail
Marcus-Orlen, Jim Waid, Andy Rush, Tom Philabaum, David Andres, Keith McElroy,
Rosemary Bernardi, Joanne Kerrihard and Barbara Penn.

Why is Dinnerware and its auction worth supporting? As Kuehl says: Dinnerware is ``a
springboard for emerging artists,'' and it fills ``a niche between commercial galleries and

Dinnerware also does more than show the work of its members. It brings in traveling
exhibitions, organizes a seven-state juried exhibition, sponsors lectures and hosts noon-time

Quite simply, Dinnerware is one of Tucson's oldest and most important art spaces, and it relies
on the community to survive. So do your part - go out there and buy art.