By Leah Mueller Special to the Herald/Review
Dec 12, 2023
When people hear the word “graffiti,” they might envision crude, furtive scribblings, but true street art is nothing of the sort. It’s astonishingly intricate, comprising a wide range of styles and mediums.
The art usually stays right where it is — in the street — but Bisbee’s Artemizia Foundation brings some of the beauty indoors, where people can view it more closely.
Located inside the building that once housed the Schoolhouse Inn, Artemizia beckons visitors with its vibrant colors. The cavernous interior overflows with treasures — graffiti and street art by such notables as Banksy, Swoon, Jules Muck, Sofia Cianciulli, Corie Mattie , and many others.
You can easily spend a couple of hours at Artemezia, wandering amongst its masterpieces. The property features Gallery 818, a sculpture garden, a mural labyrinth, an art labyrinth, and a dizzying array of creations.
Foundation director Sloane Bouchever is passionate about his mission to foster appreciation of the oft-overlooked medium of street art.
“About every seven to eight weeks, we bring in a new artist,” he explained. “We’ve had a show by Banksy. We’ve had shows by Sofia Cianciulli, who came over from Florence, Italy. The last artist was Tracy Brown. Her show comes down in two weeks.”
Bouchever is always making improvements to the gallery. Some of them are quite extensive.
“We’ve just installed a state-of-the-art movie theater,” he said. “It’s very James Bond. I push buttons, and the projector drops a screen. We’re going to have a movie series here called the 818 Film Series. It’ll be open to members only.
“We’ll make this area a café with chairs and tables. In the next room, we’ll have a bar with wine and Perrier and some appetizers. We can seat 30 people here. We’ll be playing mostly documentary films and bringing in the filmmakers to talk about them.”
Artemizia’s upcoming Dec. 16 show will feature art by well-known Brooklyn street artist, Swoon. Swoon, whose given name is Caledonia Dance Curry, was born in Connecticut and raised mostly in Florida. Her parents struggled with opioid addiction.
When Swoon was 10, her mother enrolled her in an art class for retirees. She blossomed there and went on to study at the Pratt Institute. The collegiate curriculum felt too confining, so she began to plaster her paper portraits to building exteriors.
Swoon’s fame expanded, and now her prints fetch quite a bit of money. Her work has been shown and collected by MOMA in New York, the Tate, and every major museum in the world.
Bouchever plans to give back to the Bisbee community.
“We’re doing a limited edition of 50 of her prints,” he said. “Typically, her prints would sell for two or three thousand dollars. We’re selling them for $300, and 100% of the proceeds will go to Tin Town (the local homeless shelter).”
Swoon will sign and number one of her most well-known works, a portrait of a Black man named George. Dressed in a multicolored, flowing robe, George clasps his hands and cocks his head. The amount of detail is astonishing. One can only imagine how many hours it took to create such a piece.
Artemizia also features a stunning self-portrait by Swoon, a mixed-media piece that includes paint and plywood. Wearing a dreamy, thoughtful expression, she gazes slightly to one side — a hallmark of much of her work.
If you’d like to meet Swoon and see her beautiful creations, you can come to her show on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 1-4 p.m.. Admission is $10. Museum memberships start at $50 per year.
Artemizia is at 818 Tombstone Canyon. It’s open Thursday thru Sunday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Contact the gallery at www.artemiziafoundation.org.