Somethings Wonderful This Way Came

Somethings Wonderful This Way Came
1970's Vintage Caftan in At Play

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Going to Tubac

My first trip to Tubac was as a traditional tourist.  I learned on the internet that Tubac was hosting its annual arts festival and persuaded my husband that it was time for a road trip.  He knew, of course, of my lifelong interest in the arts, but was only slightly aware that Tubac was my Harwood Steiger Mecca.  The Saturday we set out for Tubac was glorious:  warm, sunny---the very reasons for living in Arizona.  We packed up the car with lots of bottled water, snacks and dog biscuits.  Tipatina (Tina), also known as Singing Heart, loved road trips.  She woof woofs driving through the city, but when we reach the rural areas, she settles down for naps on her back seat quilt.  It's about a three hour trip from Phoenix to Tubac, most of it through the beautiful southern Arizona desert.  As a new resident I am always thrilled to see more of this stunning landscape.  So many people who have never been here believe that all of Arizona is desolate and empty except for rattlesnakes and scorpions.  We have those, for sure, but you seldom see them.  What Arizona does have in abundance is beautiful vistas, unbelievable varieties of cactus in the low desert, and amazing botanical specimens everywhere else.  Phoenix, my home, is in the low desert.  As a city, the yards and public scapes are well manicured and nearly tropical.  Palm trees, citrus, bouganvilla and other exotic shrubs are the norm.  Tubac, on the other hand is a higher elevation in the foothills of the mountains that separate it from infamous places like Tombstone.  There's lots of mesquite and palo verde everywhere.  There are cactus, too,  but, also grasses and shrubs.  It's lovely and a little wild.  I've been told that the village is open range and that means that occasional cattle along with skunks and havelina may just munch in your garden.

Tubac is a tiny, unincorporated village.  One would be surprised to learn that it's the first European settlement in the United States.  The very oldest part of Tubac is a hodge podge of ancient adobe structures around the Presidio and St. Ann's Church.  Newer Tubac, where most of the art galleries are located, is a mix of brand new pseudo adobes and buildings erected all through the 20th century.  Harwood Steiger's silk screening studio was one of these.  You would never recognize the building today if looking at a picture from his brochure.  The building has been remodeled into a predictable Spanish style retail space.  There's no evidence of the original adobe structure from the outside.  I had to ask around before finding it. 

Nonetheless, Tubac is charming.  The streets are lined with galleries, sellers of Talaveras pottery and small shops of every imaginable kind.  We finally parked after circling the village a time or two to get our bearings.  Tina was happy to get out of the car.  The first out door gallery we came to held beautiful bronze sculptures of animals.  The wolf sculpture captured Tina's attention.  As soon as she saw it, she took a stance between it and us, then started a low growl.  When the wolf didn't respond, she started barking outright.  This is really funny to us.  As a Tibetan Terrier weighing a little over 20 pounds, she'd make a good lunch for a wolf.  But, to a bronze wolf, frozen in place, she was the aggressor.  We laughed.  Finally she realized something wasn't right and slowly approached the bronze.  When the wolf still didn't move, and she could get a good sniff, her tail started wagging again.  What a hoot!  We moved on pulling Tina with us.  She was still keeping an eye on that wolf.

I checked into some of the shops selling vintage linens and quilts.  I thought that if some Steiger pieces survived in the village, they would be there.  Wrong.  I asked a few of the shop owners about Mr. Steiger.  Old timers just clucked and said it was a shame he wasn't around anymore.  Sure do miss him, several said.  No, no Steiger family left in Tubac.  Many of the shop owners were relative newcomers who had heard of Harwood Steiger, but didn't know anything about him.  I mostly struck out in the Harwood Steiger department.  I was disappointed, to be sure.

We had lunch at a lovely little outdoor bistro we'd seen on Arizona Highways.  Great food.  I also had a chance to admire Kim Yubeta's jewelry on display in a gallery window.  Georgous.  We visited the large outdoor sculpture garden and I had a chance to lust after many beautiful works of art.  When my lust filled heart could stand it no longer, we packed Tina into the back seat of the car and headed back to Phoenix.  I didn't find any traces of Harwood Steiger.  However, I did find Tubac, and I loved it.

1 comment:

  1. I lived in tubac in the late 80's early 90's. I knew Wanda, I use to go to her Shop all the time. Her house was connected to the shop. I never really thought anything of the material. Now I see how beautiful it is when its all put together. I moved to Chandler in 95 & she always wanted to make Ostrich bags & have me sell them at the Chandler Ostrich Festval. Its sad I never did, & very sad Wanda is gone,such a great lady. I have to on ebay to buy something. I think all the material was sold & the big equiptment used to make the prints. Also the Tubac house/shop sold.