Corinne Geertsen at Mesa Contemporary Arts by Scott Andrews

20110101-Java-Magazine Corinne Geertsen

Corinne Geertsen at Mesa Contemporary Arts by Scott Andrews

Mesa Contemporary Arts, whose five galleries join four theaters and 14 art studios, in the Mesa Arts Center (MAC), has been bringing the East Valley crowd in strength since it opend five years ago. Part of the galleries’ reason for success is no doubt because the entire Center bustles with activity. The thaters have the highest traffic in the Valley. The galleries are successful in their own right; however, not just because they are advantageously sited, but because of their programming.

Think of it as a demand-driven, rather than supply-driven, curatorial program. While notoriously failing as an economic model (Cuban wages, anyone?), the cultural version of a demand economy-populism-can invigorate, rather than stifle the arts. Which may explain why Cuban music is so vital, but enough geopolitical allusions. The trick is to not confuse art marketing claims with potential local interest. Many art museums have, prior to the Great Recession, looked to blockbusters to up their attendance count. Without, say, one of the King Tut exhibits on hand, they have made no qualms about selling whatever traveling exhibition comes their way as the Big Thing. Mesa Contemporary has brought in some big national names, too, but they rely to a great deal on local talent, and local shows are often more popular than out-of-town talent.

On view through February is Psychological Sightseeing, digital photomontage by Mesa artist Corinne Geertsen. Mixing old family photos with archival photographs, Geertsen creates images that seem to chart dreamspace, evoking  a range of emotions from bemusement to the edge of terror. The daughter of a psychologist who would recount stories of his patients at the family dinner table in Montana Geertsen began her studies in science and received several grants from the American Cancer Society for research in genetic mapping. She completed her university time in art, receiving an MFA from Brigham Young University.

The psychological predicaments mapped in her composite photographs are part of narratives whose diverse causes are as illusive to our recognition-or-memory as is the dilemma portrayed as familiar, bringing a mix of dread and humor to what we emotionally allow as inevitable. Presenting the surreal as the given state of affairs, they seem to chart our current sense of national and world history as ably as they note private life. (January 2011 Java Magazine)