Writer praises Tucson, MOCA and artist

By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Tucson is an exciting place because of fearless people who are committed to what they're doing."

It's not every day that someone does so much justice to this desert conundrum and now writer Joan Juliet Buck will do Dave Lewis just as much justice.

Buck, former editor of Vogue in Paris and seasoned television critic, will have an impromptu conversation today with Lewis, sculptor of the "State Furniture" exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 197 E. Toole Ave.

"State Furniture" is on display with a photography series by Dan Budnik called "David Smith at Work." The two exhibits work together as Budnik's work displays the work process of a sculpting legend, while Lewis's exhibit explores the mechanisms used to enforce power.

"State Furniture" curator Anne-Marie Russell explains the event simply.

"It's two well known people having an interesting conversation on a range of topics," Russell said.

Buck first met Lewis when she visited Tucson while doing research for her piece in Travel and Leisure magazine in October of 2003.

Even though they met at Lewis's studio while he was still in the process of creating the pieces for "State Furniture," Buck was instantly blown away by his vision.

"I was extremely impressed by his combination of passion and whimsy. Let's call it passion and humor. I think it's very, very serious work, but the way he presents it is very humorous. I think that's the only way. Because he's working in very heavy metal he has to give a lot to it physically to make it happen," Buck said. "The articulation of his ideas also passes through the physical process. He's not just painting or using found objects. He's creating power. That's part of the really interesting objective he's set for himself."

Although Buck has done a variety of written work, she says the type of interview she will conduct with Lewis is more of an improvisation performance.

"When you're interviewing someone in front of a lot of people, it's not a confidential setting. It's definitely not one on one. You're hoping the person's story will really get across to the audience. You're really doing it to set off the person, to make people understand Dave Lewis's work. What's improvised is always way more interesting than what's planned," Buck said.

Buck believes the key to having a successful public interview like the one planned is to purposefully avoid the topic to be discussed immediately prior to the interview.

"If you have a nice long fascinating conversation before, you're going to use up your energy and your curiosity and you're going to be telling secondhand stories up there - 'Dave, what you said earlier about ...' - and the audience isn't going to get anything," Buck said. "Thursday is for the audience. Beyond making a list of questions, I don't know how you prepare, I'm an improviser."

Lewis's pieces are set up in a way that is almost equally as significant as what the pieces are saying themselves. Because Buck has not seen the collection since it was finished she said their calculated display will inspire the questions for her conversation with Lewis.

"I'm going to see the work I last saw in his dark studio, but now in the light of the MOCA show. The pieces will raise questions. It's my job to ask him the questions that the pieces are shouting," Buck said.

Buck said she is thrilled to be asked to come back and be a part of this exhibit, partially due to the respect and admiration she has for the work being done at MOCA.

"What Anne Marie Russell is doing is stunning and adventurous and that's what you want from people involved in art. I really like going to MOCA. She has the best combination anyone could have, a mix of passion, curiosity and humor," Buck said. "MOCA is the most lively and interesting art space in America."

Buck and Lewis's conversation at MOCA takes place today from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. The event is free to members and $5 for non-members.