January 14, 2023

A Conversation with Artist Mary Shindell

Q: How did you begin your public art journey?

A: I answered a call from the city of Phoenix for artists who work in two-dimensional art. The call stated that artists could be painters, printmakers, or textile artists and they would be considered to do terrazzo floors in city facilities. I was selected to do a floor in the Adam Diaz Senior Center. I was surprised, but it was a wonderful experience to take a drawing and use it to create a large piece of public art.

Q: When starting a new public art project, what are the first steps you like to take?

A: My first consideration as an artist is the location, the use, and meaning of the site. As a part of my research and process, I welcome others’ input as to the sense of place that the site represents to them as community members, stakeholders, and arts professionals. I work with the design team to identify opportunities for the inclusion of art. I incorporate insights from employees, users, and neighboring communities. I listen to the concerns and aspirations of all involved.

Mesquite Bosque by Mary Shindell at Bell94 Sports Complex. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Q: What was your inspiration for the design of Mesquite Bosque?

A: When I first saw the Bell94 Sports Complex site it struck me that the McDowell Mountains were a beautiful backdrop to the complex. That day the mountains were a stunning violet color. I used the color from the mountains as a response to the site, and because I knew mesquite trees were to be planted near the entrance, I used their trunks, branches, and leaves in the design along with marine blue butterflies. I enjoyed working on this large active area and creating artwork to reflect and enhance the experiences of everyone using the site. I am pleased that I was able to work with Scottsdale Public Art and the city of Scottsdale to make Mesquite Bosque happen.

Q: What was the fabrication process for Mesquite Bosque?

A: Mesquite Bosque is constructed using aluminum, which has been waterjet cut. In this case, it was cut to depict a mesquite tree and marine blue butterflies. Next, the aluminum panels were taken to the powder coater to have the violet color applied. The panels were then taken to the site and installed into the existing fencing system at the entrance to fields.

Mesquite Bosque by Mary Shindell during fabrication. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Q: Other than Mesquite Bosque, what is your favorite piece of public art that you have created?

A: My favorite piece so far is Ocotillo Rise, which is the ramp and bridge piers that will take the light rail train up and over the I-17 to the Metro Center Station. I think I like this best because of the scale that was required and the fragile botanicals which exist on the large concrete structures. It was a difficult drawing challenge, and I enjoyed making it work.

Q: Do you have any advice for artists emerging into the public art field?

A: I would say to look at a lot of public art. If you are rejected from a call for artists, look at the artists who were chosen and their work. There is a reason some forms of art work better in some projects than others. Be open to trying new materials with your skills. I have found drawing to be the most important skill for me, but every artist is different.

Q: Do you have any fun anecdotes you would like to share?

A: I was doing a final walk through with my project manager on a job site, and we were so busy looking at the art and talking about how well the project had gone that we failed to notice the time. The general contractor had left and locked the gate to the construction fence. We were locked in and had to call and get the combination for the huge lock! Then, it took the two of us pulling on it to get it open. It was embarrassing but very funny.

Mesquite Bosque by Mary Shindell at Bell94 Sports Complex. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

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