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Dead things make lively art – slide show

Dead things don’t always belong in a grave. They make some fantastic art.

Dead thing in a chair/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski
Dead thing made from cow bones sitting in a backyard chair/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski

We’re not talking about art that simply depicts dead things, like Georgia O’Keeffe’s skull-happy paintings or a rendition of the suicidal Marat slumped lifeless in his bathtub.

We’re talking about actual parts, pieces or entire skeletons of dead things.

No home is artistically complete without at least one skull, spinal column or stuffed raccoon.

My brother once had a femur hanging from his kitchen ceiling.

Dead things work well au natural, or you can paint, decorate or draw on them to further enhance their beauty.

You can also assemble them into striking wall hangings or figures sitting stately on a discarded rusty chair you found in the Rillito riverbed.

Unless you moonlight as a mortician or have a penchant for raiding cemeteries, it’s best to use dead animals rather than people in your dead thing art collection. It’s also best to find them dead rather than killing them just to make a wall hanging.

Art made from dead people is best left to professional exhibits, like the one coming to Tucson. Sure, “Bodies…The Exhibition” is billed as a scientific display. But I saw the similar traveling show “Our Body: The Universe Within” in Detroit and it didn’t fool me.

More cow bone art/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski
More cow bone art/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski

The body display is an art gallery full of dead people. One was riding a bike, another was waiting for a bus, a third was reading the newspaper. I don’t think it was the Tucson Citizen.

One dead man’s muscle tissues were cut, spread and frozen in place as if he were sporting wings and about to go flying through the science center. A bright red circulatory system hung sweetly behind glass, looking eerily similar to a jazzy disco jumper.

Of course, there are some caveats when using dead things as art. Please make sure all the fleshy parts are picked clean so you’re house doesn’t end up reeking. Also refrain from using organs, brains or other materials that are prone to rot.

And the biggest warning of all – keep dead thing art up high, far away from your dogs.

Enjoy the slide show featuring some dead thing art in and around my Tucson home (except for the worm which was photographed in Michigan).



logoWhat do you think?

Do you have any dead thing art in your own home or office?

Will you be going to the dead people art display when it comes to Tucson next month?

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Miracle Mile no longer gives us heebie jeebies

Tucson’s Miracle Mile has seen its share of transformations – not all of them good.

Miracle Mile file photo/Ryn Gargulinski
Miracle Mile file photo/Ryn Gargulinski

What began as the showy gateway to Tucson and a prime stopping spot for families in the 1950s turned into an equally prime spot for drug dealers and prostitutes from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

But don’t let its past reputation deter you from checking out what it’s like today.

A facelift plan, Tucson’s Oracle Area Revitalization Project, went into play several years back. The fruits of this plan will be showcased in an upcoming historical tour and festival on April 24. More details from the news release appear below.

The strip has undergone one heck of a transformation.

While I never personally saw Miracle Mile as the hooker haven, I heard stories.

Those tales were reminiscent of Detroit’s Woodward Avenue or New York City’s Times Square before it was transformed to into its current – and boring – squeaky clean self.

Some Miracle Mile stories were told as few as two years ago, when an employee at the nearby Evergreen Cemetery said he still found syringes littering the lawn and once spotted a prostitute taking a shower in the cemetery fountain.

But things on the strip have gotten cleaner, better.

One major plus for the area was the bulldozing of the Tropicana Adult Video Theater in 2004.

Another was the opening of Tucson police’s spanking new Westside Service Center in 2007.

We’d say building a giant police station is a very good way to give ne’er do wells the hint to move on.

The Gateway Business Alliance kicked off in October 2008, comprised of business owners who are further helping Miracle Mile’s economic development.

Miracle Mile will always have its place in Tucson – and we’re glad people are working to preserve and revamp it, rather than mow down and trash it.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Photo Ryn Gargulinski

One of the highlights is definitely the retro motels and signs. The one for the Ghost Ranch Lodge was even designed by the renown Tucson architect Josais Joesler boasting a logo by artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe is the reason I have dead skulls in my kitchen.

Golden Pin Lanes, with its $1 million makeover, is also one very fine bowling alley.

Upgrading Miracle Mile is the way to go, as long as the upgrades continue to preserve its history and kitschy charm. Too many notable Tucson homes, buildings or other structures around town have already been torn down or left to decay – or replaced by things like the abominable DeConcini U.S. Courthouse.

We’d even take a seedy Miracle Mile over that monstrous courthouse.

What: Historic Miracle Mile Tour and Festival – Motor Courts, Motor Cars & Memories Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 24
Where: Miracle Mile Strip: Miracle Mile-Oracle-Drachman area
A bevy of activities are planned for the daylong family-friendly event: Car buffs will enjoy a vintage and collectible classic car show. There will be tours of the vintage motor courts and memorabilia, live musical venues, folklorico dancing, paint-out competitions, a fine arts exhibit, local business vendor booths, food-tasting competitions, mariachis, Yaqui mask carving and other adult and children events.
Booths are still available for food vendors, artists and other individuals and organizations. Deadline is March 19. For info, visit


Miracle Mile timeline

1930s: Miracle Mile Strip, which included some of what is now Oracle Road, was built as a northwest gateway into Tucson and hailed as the best road ever made.

1937: Miracle Mile gets high acclaim in Arizona Highways magazine. “There was nothing like it the Southwest,” the publication said. The strip had thriving businesses, mainly hotels, for the next three decades.

1960s: Interstate 10 completed, diverting travelers away from Miracle Mile and hurting businesses. The strip begins its decline.

1983: Massive police sweeps result in the arrest of 400 suspected prostitutes and 87 men for soliciting police decoys.

1986: Shootouts common, usually involving pimps over their real estate and human property.

Late 1980s: “Miracle Mile” name taken off sign south of cemetery because North Oracle Road businesses didn’t want the Miracle Mile reputation.

2002-2004: Miracle Mile found to be the most violent section of the city in Tucson Citizen analysis.

2004: Birth of the Oracle Project, a coalition of neighborhoods and businesses working to improve Oracle from Drachman to Miracle Mile.

March 2004: City condemns Tropicana Adult Video Theater because of building code violations. The building is torn down.

Sept. 2005: Miracle Mile repaved.

Fall 2007: Beginning of Oracle Area Revitalization Plan, an 18-month project to revitalize the area that includes Miracle Mile.

September 2007: Tucson Police Westside Service Center opens at 1310 W. Miracle Mile.

October 2007: La Paloma Family Services moves to 870 W. Miracle Mile.

January 2008: Police receive OK from City Council to buy six acres next to West Side station to build new crime lab.

May 2008: Golden Pin Lanes gets $1 million makeover.

Source: Tucson Citizen archives

wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Are you a fan of Miracle Mile?

Do you have any Miracle Mile stories to share?

What other areas in Tucson should be preserved for their kitschy charm?