Aliens Over Tucson

Aliens Over Tucson
Found 09/2011, Thrift Town (Manchaca  and Stassney)

As with much of the Museum’s high school collection, discerning the artist’s intent is challenging. The jarring colors of the sprawling Southwestern church dominate the image, although they are not the rhetorical focus of the piece. The church could have easily been a part of a pleasantly bland image, but its color palette shifted like the negative image in an Andy Warhol pop-art study,  it has become otherworldly, a study in stark lines and contrasts evocative of black and white photography.

AdobeUFO3The organic lines come from a literally alien source, the presence of some strange invader. The agent in this close encounter is clearly visible, if not identifiable, suggested as it is by a disk of roiling color. Its lines are liquid and difficult to discern, though they reflect some of the color in the church’s stained glass window below (or perhaps the windows reflect the light of the alien above, a dark inversion of their usual intent, reflecting the light of Heaven). Against the black canvas the influence of the alien is barely visible, a strange apparatus of pipes and lines of magnetic force hangs over the church like the Sword of Damocles. Its purpose and power is obscure.

AdobeUFO2bIn Aliens Over Tucson, the normal is made alien, and the alien is made utterly ineffable. That this piece shows a church suggests the anonymous artist is making a critique of religion itself. Is embracing a power that is infinite and unknowable, but that we assume to be benevolent, significantly different from welcoming an alien invader into our lives? Tellingly, the church, shown at night, seems to be missing a spire and cross, which the invaders are happy to provide.

It is difficult to perceive the complex design of the alien apparatus hanging over the church; we have attempted to emphasize the apparatus in the detail at left, to give a sense of the shape of the alien probe.


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