5:30 PM17:30

Art Detour 31 Art at the Armory Open Studios and Artists Reception

Artist and veteran Jason Hugger opens his studio at historic Army National Guard building to the public for Art Detour 31.

Event plans include multi-artist reception and party on March 15 along with painters Miguel Ibarra studio 204, Papay Solomon & Aimee Ollinger studio 101, Rigo Flores & Azalea Rodriguez studio 105. Artists studios open to tour and reception in the Lounge at the Armory.

You won’t find any bowls of wax fruit in still life painter Jason Hugger’s studio at The Armory. What you will see are boxes bulging with jagged metal machine parts, pieces of pipes, an assortment of rusted bolts and various other obtuse objects rendered utterly abstract in their various stages of dismemberment and decay.

These are the subjects of his paintings, sometimes arranged, Frankenstein-like, into model settings propped next to his canvas, where they will eventually become their own little worlds in his imagination and finished works.

Hugger is an Army veteran who spent time in Iraq. His wife Cathryn describes him as “a soldier in every situation.” So perhaps it’s fitting he now has a studio in the former Army National Guard building off 16th Avenue and Roosevelt Street. In his space inside the Cold War-era armory, he creates his surrealistic acrylic and oil paintings of discarded objects in desolate desert settings.

The 23,500-square-foot building -- built of hard brick and steel, with sharp angles and perfectly symmetrical square windows -- is a marvel of military architecture.

Hugger says he chose to participate in Art Detour, a multi-day event now in its 31st year that showcases the open studios of artists throughout central Phoenix, because this year he has a location he can open to the public. The Armory has drawn media attention in local outlets like Phoenix New Times and Phoenix Business Journal for its historic significance and adaptive reuse as an artistic combine.

“As soon as you drive up to The Armory, you are impressed with the size of it and upon entry view the enormous lobby with stairs on both sides to the balcony,” says Hugger, who’s looking forward to meeting guests in the art-decked lounge of The Armory during a free party on March 15. “The interior is a combination of surfaces dominated by red bricks. The first floor where I reside is complimented by a huge curved hallway with gorgeous lighting. I have four large windows, natural light and also LED lights.”

The illumination, Hugger’s wife Cathryn says, has crept into the aesthetic of the artist’s most recent works, which will be on display throughout Art Detour. “He’s got some light in his life, so his paintings have more color,” she says.

Hugger’s latest paintings include a series titled “The Desert Rises,” which showcase his carefully curated recycled objects in desert landscapes. But while the landscapes remain mostly barren, the skies behind them have turned bluer, more vibrant, and sometimes sprayed with sunset colors. And the objects themselves are imbued with deeper jewel tones than in his previous paintings.

“This is my newest series and is probably the most colorful I have ever done,” Hugger says. “Some of the objects are quiet and still and some I imagine are animated. My studio has a lot of light and it’s been a joy to paint there.”

After the reception on March 15, Hugger’s studio will be “wet” all weekend – he’ll be setting up a new still life, finishing a commission, and sketching for the new series. He’s hoping visitors will find their way to The Armory, though it’s slightly off the beaten path – a slight detour on Art Detour -- to see his studio in such a remarkable setting.

“The rehab of this old National Guard Armory is industrial, very clean and modern. The elements that were saved serve nicely alongside the new parts,” Hugger says. “I feel safe as the building is secure and the common space is furnished very nicely. I feel very fortunate to be in this historic building.”

Jason Hugger’s studio space (studio 107) at The Armory, 1614 W. Roosevelt Street, will be open during Art Detour, March 14-18, 2019. A party is scheduled for Friday, March 15, 2019

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