30 May, 2023

            CIRCUS FABLE c.1838

Circus Fable circa 1838
On View:
 June 10-June 30
Gallery Hours: Fridays 11 am - 3 pm, Saturdays 9 am - 3 pm and Sundays Noon - 3 pm
Second Saturday Gallery Walk and Reception: Saturday, June 10, 6pm-9pm, with performances by Jose Garcia Davis and local band Smokey Lonesome

Opening on June 10, the JTAG featuring the Circus Fable circa 1838 show featuring local artists Steffi Sutton and Joe Alvarez. The theme is recreating mid-1800’s Alta California when Mexico was trying to stay in control. Steffi and Joe explore themes of the early West when traveling bands of buskers and circus performers began working their way west in the form of meandering troupes at odds with the obstacles before them.

Joe's interest in that time period of early California history set the stage for this collaboration with Steffi. The cast of characters is from an unusual perspective showcasing Steffi and Joe’s whimsical views of rag-tag of anthropomorphic carneys on their way up Alta California c.1838 as they trace through the desert inviting all audiences to the outdoor circus troupe.

It’s an exploration of the early west and California desert.  All the complicated transformational ideals go back to striving to get back to one's true self that still resonates today. Playing with those messages is the theme of the show. They juxtapose color and whimsy while dealing with these ideas. When Joe and Steffi decided to collaborate on having a joint show of new work, they understood that both had similar sensibilities regarding color, textiles style and a certain insubordinate whimsy. They are truly on the same algorithm. 

Joe and Steffi are natural collaborators. Joe’s collaborations include the Mexicali Biennial and the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, which hosts community events throughout the year. Joe describes himself as a folk artist pushing dark humor, irreverent themes and a critique on society and the political environment, the bad habits, “los caprichos”, that people do and how it contributes to our world today.

Appearing on opening night June 10 during the 2nd Saturday art walk, Jose Garcia Davis a well known performance artist will be featuring on video some of his notable performance pieces. Jose is a multimedia visual artist and has shown his work in many galleries and juried and invitational art shows. He is an accomplished theater, video, film, and visual artist with 40 years of professional experience. Most recently he performed his “The Devil and Forty Chickens” at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. On display during the month will be burro and goat masks created by Jose for “SLUMBER OF REASON”, a dance/theater/video production inspired by the art of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya.

In addition, local band Smokey Lonesome will perform a live set of some of their notable hits.

About the Artists

Joe Alvarez hails from Echo Park and decided to settle in Landers when he discovered the stunning blue skies and the magical landscape of the high desert. He currently is nestled in front of scenic Goat Mountain as he paints and creates his artworks. Alvarez has been included in numerous art exhibitions, from Pasadena to Joshua Tree. He uses allegorical subjects in the guise of part-human/part-animal figures, circus show performers, and fairy-tale characters in his work.

His symbolic and narrative work encompasses parody, punk, black humor, and mestizaje culture. He paints mostly on repurposed wood and acrylic mixed media. Joe continues to expand his choices of medium by incorporating textiles to his creations. Inspired by Frida Kahlo, Egon Scheile, Manuel Ocampo and William Blake, Alvarez creates shadowy myth and droll masquerades, signaling that everything is not always what it seems. Joe is driven by a deep desire to inform the viewer of the many cautionary tales that are constantly swirling through his mind. He filters his anxieties through his many characters and exploring how he views the world through his colorful imagery and allegorical scenes.

Steffi Sutton, another irreverent soul, utilizes her sense of whimsy that is ever apparent in her final images of mythology, astrology, science, and fable. Steffi explores empowerment in her pieces celebrating women, ladyboys and the contradiction of animals in dress up, as they are unselfconscious about themselves, unlike us. She explores anthropology/anthropomorphic style using indigenous inspiration. Her creatures/animals/ extend to exoskeleton creatures/beings, a form of therapy in addressing her fear of the many creepy crawlies that she has slowly learned to embrace and not kill as they complete the cycle of life out here in the desert.

Originally from Nashville, Steffi has pursued art her entire life. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a BFA in graphic design and worked on Nashville’s Music Row before moving to New York City for a decade and then relocating to Pioneertown in 2001.

Fire is in Steffi’s life. She lost her 1940’s Pioneertown cabin in the Sawtooth fire of 2006. Now a pyrogravure artist, she burns her images into wood and finishes with acrylics as well as incorporating metal, copper, and found objects. She and her partner live and work as Zenbunnyland in the Pipes Cyn area of Pioneertown. Steffi has been featured in numerous gallery shows in Los Angeles and the hi-desert and has been a regular on the HWY 62 Open Studios Art Tours.