The Art of Living

BY Riki Altman-Yee, Nora Burba Trulsson, Nick Esquer and Teresa K. Traverse | November 19, 2018 | Feature Features National

These Valley creatives are adding unparalleled flavor to our growing arts scene, whether it's on canvas, center stage... or beyond.
Niki Woehler

Niki Woehler
Step inside Niki Woehler’s Arcadia home, and it’s clear that she’s an artist. Her abstract canvases and resin panels are stacked deep in the kitchen; the living room floor is splattered with paint; the dining room has been converted to a studio; and her car—a Suburban—is fitted with special racks so she can personally deliver artwork to galleries that represent her. Woehler never intended to be a full-time artist. She was a full-tilt marketing executive with no art training who painted for herself. A former client goaded Woehler into taking her artwork seriously. In 2012, she quit marketing and devoted herself to creating works inspired by nature and weathered textures that sell in a nanosecond. Her paintings found their way into galleries across the West (in Scottsdale, at House of Anderson); scores of homes; and in corporate settings, like CBRE’s Phoenix headquarters, for which she created a 54-foot-long piece, and Indeed’s Scottsdale office, where she designed a custom logo art wall. At home, Woehler’s building a backyard studio now that her art career is bursting at the seams. “I’m never going to cover up the paint splatters inside my house, though,” she says. “They’re part of who I am.” –NBT

Bill Tonnesen
If you know anything about Bill Tonnesen, you know that nothing that comes out of his creative mind is ever “normal.” Tonnesen’s latest salvo on safe expectations is the Lavatory, a permanent experiential art project in a 16,000-square-foot building that opened last month. The six-room installation, inspired by projects like the Museum of Ice Cream and Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf, includes odes to the porcelain gods—like a fountain-style wall of flushing toilets, an all-white room covered in granulated sugar and populated with live mice, and a black room for which participants must sign a nondisclosure agreement before entering. The piéce de résistance? The Pit, the mother of all ball pits—filled neck-deep with 120,000 clear spheres—where turbines, sound and lighting change the vibe from volcanic cauldron to turbulent sea. Does it bother Tonnesen that some might find the Lavatory disturbing? “This is not for everybody,” he says. “I am interested in the bizarre. If you’re interested in finding your happy place, go to Disneyland.” $25-$35, 4700 N. 12th St. –NBT

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