Art at hotel Congress
The Hotel Congress is an art hotel.
While the Hotel Congress has been a Tucson landmark since its opening in 1919, it has also been the cultural and artistic hub of the city since the Oserans purchased the hotel in 1985.
At the time, downtown Tucson had seen its glory days come and go. The hotel became the epicenter of a new creative scene that would bring new energy and revitalize downtown. The hotel is now well known for its impressive collection of art as well as its unshakable commitment to support the local creative community as a whole. Please find additional information below on some of the more notable art that can be found around the hotel property by both locally known and nationally renowned artists. But don’t stop there, art is alive around every corner of the hotel, so relax, enjoy, and let the art of Tucson inspire you.
The hotel murals were painted by renowned muralist Larry Boyce. A larger-than-life personality who traveled the country on his bicycle trading room and board for art. After surviving a plane crash, his bicycle became his primary mode of transportation. Larry was known for his Victorian stenciling and was celebrated by many, including the Smithsonian Magazine. But when Larry pulled up to The Hotel Congress, he reinvented himself to produce the truly one-of-a-kind work in the lobby. This southwest deco motive is the only example of Boyce stepping out of his Victorian specialty. True to form, Larry was able to strike a sort of barter deal with hotel ownership to allow him to complete his vision in several stages. As you enjoy the murals, make sure not to miss the animals and plants native to the Sonoran desert represented in the work, including owls, quail, tortoises, and more.
Joe Pagac is an artist, a craftsman, a performer, and a world traveler, born and raised right here in Tucson. Starting with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Communications and Illustration, Joe set out after graduation to explore as many different facets of the artistic world as possible. With time spent working in fields ranging from construction and sculpture to marketing and event planning, Joe is now able to draw on a vast amount of knowledge to help make any artistic dream a reality.
Joe’s passion is to share his art with the Tucson community he loves so dearly. His work reflects that love through the use of the brilliant colors reflected in the vast Arizona and Southwest landscapes. Many of his murals also incorporate the diverse plants and animals of the region, as well as the breathtaking sunsets that are near and dear to Joe’s heart.
The Cactus Garden features a panoramic mural by Joe depicting a desert scene complete with javelina, rattlesnakes, and, of course, cacti. It provides a scenic spot to take in a good book and boasts the best view of the hotel’s iconic neon sign in town.
Based in Tucson, Arizona, Daniel Martin Diaz is a fine artist with an insatiable curiosity to explore the mysteries of life and science. His work has been exhibited worldwide and has been published in the LA Times, NY Times, Juxtapoz, High Fructose, Low Rider Magazine, and four personal art books. Diaz has designed artwork for large public art projects in the US and has won many awards, such as a gold and platinum record designed for Atlantic Records. His mosaics can be seen on the floors of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and in various galleries worldwide.
“Art is a reflection of ourselves, the story of humanity, and a quest to understand the physical and metaphysical world. As we try to understand our place in the universe, art can be an important part of the dialogue we can create and share with each other. In my work, I seek to reveal the mysterious with arcane imagery and techniques that make sense to me on a deep level that words cannot quantify. There is an underlying dichotomy between the power of technology and our quantum connection to the universe. It is my attempt to capture the complexity and beauty of the underlying mechanisms that bind us to an emotion.” – Diaz
The club stage is framed by some of Daniel’s signature metal work in a custom, one-of-a-kind design. The work incorporates club iconography as well as Daniel’s favorite number 13. Notice the motto above the stage, “Musica delenit bestiam feram,” which means “Music soothes the savage beast” in Latin.
Famed western artist Pete Martinez frequented the Tap Room bar at the hotel and considered it his local watering hole. He not only painted a wall mural but also gifted many original sketches and paintings to the hotel. These works can be seen adorning the walls of the Tap Room and provide a hearkening back to the early 20th century, when Tucson really was the Wild West.
In the early twentieth century, a broad range of dynamic artists called Tucson home. A collection of cowboys and rodeo stars picked up bushes, charcoal, and pencils and began to depict the Arizona landscape. One of these individuals was Pete Martinez. Martinez’s art captures the raw roughness of the wild west. A soft wooliness that does not sacrifice beauty.
Martinez was born in Porterville, California, in 1894. He was raised in the area adjoining Deer Creek, where his father worked as a cowboy and rancher. When Pete was twelve, his father was killed by a rattlesnake bite, and Pete began supporting his family from then on. He followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a cowboy. He rode herds for some major outfits, including the Santa Rita Ranch in Los Banos, California, owned by the famed cattle kings Miller and Lux. He served as the top rider for Mrs. George Coffee on her mountain ranch in the Greenhorn Mountains in Kern County, California.
In 1932, on the Southwestern Rodeo circuit, Martinez performed in the Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson. He met Victoria Kellner (the aunt of baseball pitcher Alex Kellner), and the two got married. The couple purchased a small ranch near Prince Road and Tucson Blvd., near the home of Maynard Dixon’s (one of the namesakes of Maynards restaurant).
Talk about repurposing! Nick Georgiou has been making elaborate paper sculptures since the early 2000s, transforming discarded books and magazines into imaginative portraits and other artworks. Georgiou’s labor of love includes dyeing old scraps of print media and then gluing hand stitching them into the images that he creates. In 2018, he was commissioned by collectors of his work—the fashion gurus Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana—to create sculptural busts for a launch party held at the New York Public Library.
Georgiou earned his BFA in Film and Television from The New York University Tisch School of the Arts; he has had solo exhibitions since 2006 in New York and Tucson, Arizona.
Kenny Scharf is widely known for his participation in New York City’s interdisciplinary East Village art scene during the 1980s, alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Scharf’s do-it-yourself practice spanned painting, sculpture, fashion, video, performance art, and street art. Growing up in post-World War II Southern California, Scharf was fascinated by television and the futuristic promise of modern design. His works often includes pop culture icons, such as the Flintstones and the Jetsons, or caricatures of middle-class Americans in an apocalyptic science fiction setting..
You might say Kenny was introduced to Hotel Congress by a friend of the family and an idea quickly took shape. Kenny painted the Keg Trailer on the hotel plaza. There was also a raffle held and the three winners had their cars decked out by Scharf as well. If you look closely, you might spot one of them still cruising around the city to this day.
The hotel lobby is one part lounge and one part art gallery. The large East wall is used for rotating art exhibits. These exhibits feature both local as well as nationally, and even internationally renowned artists working in various mediums. The exhibits are changed several times a year and often curated by top galleries like Terry Etherton Gallery in Tucson. All the works in the gallery are also available for sale. So come back often and see what’s featured.
Credits include joepagac.net, danielmartindiaz.com, wikipedia, artsy