We had the good fortune of connecting with Shirley Wagner and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shirley, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
What makes me happy? Making art makes me happy. It sounds so simple and even childish, and while making art makes me happy, it is not without challenge. The birth of ideas can come together easily but more often than not, concepts circle in my brain for a long time. Once clarity and resolution arrives, setting the work in motion can be frustrating and even disappointing. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is the journey that brings me happiness. As an artist, I must trust this process.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been a working artist in Tucson, Arizona for over two decades. Technically, I am an assemblage artist. I bring parts and pieces together to build form. Much of my work has been wood, wall mounted sculptures. I am fortunate to have this body of work represented by medicinemangallery.com in Tucson, Arizona.

In the last few years my style has evolved.  I began working on a series of figure drawings. The story on how this body of work came about is quite interesting. When the University of Arizona School of Art Advisory Board asked me to participate in a live drawing atelier in 2017, I was apprehensive. While I  studied figure drawing on a university level, it had been decades since I drew from a live model!  With much trepidation, I agreed to participate. I stepped out of my comfort zone and bravely got up in front of the live audience. Using my personal style of art making, I “constructed” the human figure on paper using strong lines and found materials.  The results looked more like a sculpture on paper than a figure drawing! From this experience, I developed a whole series of work revolving around the human form I refer to as “Human Architecture”.

From this experience, I have become highly interested in dynamic movement. For the last two years I have been studying the history of movement and how the body communicates through it. At this writing,  I am exploring identity and how the body responds to social isolation. With the aid of technology, I have moved my work forward. I now offer limited edition signed and number fine art prints that are available on artezona.com effective June 2020.  In addition, a series of  life-sized digital prints are being considered for a large public art project within a university setting that focus on health and wellness.

The question is: “What sets you apart?” The answer is “trust”. I trust my art making process.  Being an artist enters every part of your psyche. It is not easy to challenge yourself and grow your practice but that is the “trust” part. Doing the same thing over and over again only feeds your ego. Being faithful to yourself and trusting your personal process can move your work forward.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Tucson, Arizona, the desert southwest. The vast spaces, mountains and desert vegetation is a sight to behold. If I had a friend come to visit, most of my time would be spent outdoors. I would take my friend hiking to inhale the amazing clean air, look out over the vistas and admire the light and shadow of the desert terrain. Turning one’s gaze to the vegetation, the giant saguaro cactus is a site to behold. The Tucson experience is a lesson in survival for a climate whose average rainfall is 12 inches per year. Tucson is an amazing place to create art. The space, the light and the shadow nurtures my soul and feeds my creative process. The desert is alive, just pretending to be dead. It welcomes those willing to really look. A trip to Tucson would not be complete without a trip to El Charro Cafe Downtown for the best Mexican food in town. Established in 1922, El Charro Cafe is The Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. Featuring traditional Northern Mexico-Sonoran style and innovative Tucson-style Mexican Food, We have an amazing array of great restaurants. As a matter of fact, Tucson became the only place in the United States designated a City of Gastronomy by Unesco in 2018.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate a shout-out to my husband Marius Wagner. He supported me both emotionally and financially, allowing me to live out my dream as an artist. He was my strongest advocate and my biggest fan. He could also be my toughest critic. While he is no longer with me, he set an example for me to follow in my life. The greatest lesson he ever taught me was to speak softly about myself, allowing my work to speak for me.

Image Credits
Photography by Robin Stancliff, Tucson AZ