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The Grime Fades as Art Stays at Modified Arts

The grungy scent of music-obsessed hipsters infested Phoenix’s Modified Arts for years when it had the reputation of an alternative live music venue.

Kimber Lanning opened this tucked-away treasure in the heart of downtown’s urban life in 1999.

Although it has always served as an outlet for the arts, Modified washed its hands clean of the music scene as the venue developed into a more refined art gallery early last year.

Current art director, Kim Larkin, was brought into the picture to help transition not only the venue, but also the community.

Larkin had a vision for a sophisticated, professional, contemporary art space and believes she has been successful in the endeavor thus far.

According to Larkin, the feedback has been full of mixed emotions. There is definitely support from the art community and appreciation from the music scene, she says, even though the musical safe haven has bid fans farewell.

“My main goal is to show the best art that I can in a downtown Phoenix venue,” said Larkin. “It’s starting to really see the fruits of its labors.”

Modified Arts showcases a variety of local, national and international artists. Larkin’s emphasis on mid-career artists has earned the gallery recognition as a high-caliber venue. Typically Larkin recruits the artists and doesn’t accept submissions in order to maintain a certain quality of work in the space.

The current art exhibition, “Shapeshifters,” was also found through a referral. The two featured artists, Ingrid Restemayer and Christy Puetz, have worked together for more than 20 years.

Puetz is a local Arizonan and Restemayer resides in Minnesota, but after establishing a relationship in school, they have been able to artistically collaborate.

Their individual artwork complements each other, which allowed the women to create a unique and bold exhibit at Modified Arts.

Puetz displays incredible talent in her beaded taxidermy. Through her creative, beaded animals she expresses struggles that humans face in society and delves into the never-ending battle of self-identity.

Although her works are very abstract and quirky portrayals of art, her message can be received and enjoyed in the midst of vivid colors and intricate patterns.

Most of Puetz’s squirrel art was inspired by the Greek tale of the Three Fates, but the display that really stood out was her “Accidental Hosts” collection. The series represented her interpretation of human disease and its effects, such as polio, typhoid fever and human herpes virus.

“For me, art is so much more than aesthetics. [The artists] are dealing with fascinating issues and concepts and then visually they are also incredibly appealing,” says Larkin, bringing affirmation to the exhibition’s mission.

Restemayer takes a different approach in her embroidery to create a delicate, complex collection. She uses things such as pushpins, origami cranes, plastic drink swords and monopoly money in her collaborative, detailed mixed-media artwork.

Her unique ability to combine random objects with her skilled stitching brings to life the deeper meaning of her artwork’s intent, while still preserving the intimacy in visual appeal.

Together, these two accomplished women have delivered a cohesive, relevant exhibition for Modified Arts.

The “Shapeshifters” exhibition will continue until Feb. 12.

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