Constance McBride came to Arizona 16 years ago, armed with a laser focus on taking her art career – creating and exhibiting her ceramic and mixed-media sculptural works – to the next level. Her passion and tenacity paid off.
Nearly two decades later, she has exhibited at galleries and museums around the Valley, inspired numerous articles, seen her work find its way into new collections and curated a handful of shows. And now, she’s bidding Phoenix farewell.
Not because she doesn’t like it here. In fact, it’s a little bittersweet for the artist, who loves how open the local arts community is and how it has been a welcoming place for her and her work. It’s just time to get a little closer in physical proximity to some of her and her husband’s nearest and dearest back in the Philadelphia area.
Before that happens, though, she’s going to take a little detour – to China. Because it does pour when it rains, McBride received a U.S. State Department general grant to participate in a five-week residency in a program at the World Academy for the Future of Women. It takes place on the campus of Sias International University in Zhengzhou. During her stay, she will lead artistic activities, showcasing her skills and voice to empower women. Other Arizona artists that have shared their talents at this program are Sue Chenoweth and Gina Santi.
Sharing her talents in an educational capacity isn’t new to McBride. She’s been doing workshops for kids and teens at the Vision Gallery in Chandler. She also teaches a hand-building ceramics class at the Shemer Art Center and Museum.
Her most recent solo exhibition, From the Hearts of Stars, exemplifies what is so captivating – and often haunting – about her work. Even at its most provocative, there’s a subtlety present that inspires contemplation within a dreamy haze that envelops you. This show, held in one of the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art (PhICA) shipping containers on Roosevelt Row, featured desert debris that McBride had collected over time.
The pieces were dipped in clay slip and coated with under glazes, crawl glazes and chalk paint. Some were fired, while others were not. They lay on the gallery floor amid sculpted human limbs and unamended debris. Adding to its depth, attendees were able to grab a pencil and adorn the walls with their own thoughts about the desert. The overall result was a microcosmic reflection on desert life – its nuances, perseverance and complex permanence.
Another notable body of work, McBride’s Lonely Girls series depicted the aging process, gender and issues through a female lens. These sculptured heads, surrounded by broken tiles containing photographic memories, were unforgettably gut-wrenching.
Other coups for the artist have included a very coveted spot as one of the annual Contemporary Forum grant recipients, facilitating inclusion in an exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum.
McBride cites her time as a member of the Eye Lounge artists collective as extremely valuable. So much so that she hopes the time she spent there will influence her future. She is interested in finding an arts collective in the Philadelphia area that she can become involved with. She loves the relationship building that type of environment has to offer.
Starting her own collective is also not out of the realm of possibility. That is what’s the most exciting to her through the sadness of leaving Arizona. “I can’t wait for new opportunities and having new experiences,” she says.
“Coming here to Arizona and going full force into my art career has been amazing. I am excited to return to the East Coast as an artist. Everything about here changed everything about me,” she tells us. “I was making art before I moved here, but this is where it became serious.”
Constance McBride plans to return to the Valley as often as she is able, to make and exhibit art, catch up with friends and continue the community building that is integral to her being. For the time being, you have a couple of ways to see her work. She has a piece at the Phoenix Airport Museum, located in Terminal 4, as part of the exhibition Arizona Artists Guild Celebrates 90 Years. That runs through May 13, 2018.
As a member of the Artlink Artist Council, she will be participating in a one-night-only show at Warehouse 215 (215 E. Grant St.) for the Art Detour 30 Art d’Core Gala (details at artlinkphoenix.org).
You can find out what McBride is up to next and see her work at constancemcbride.com.